1st Sunday Of Advent – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Vigilant Wait”.
The readings for this period of Advent invite us to be vigilant and attentive, to be ready to receive the Lord who is coming to free us from the slavery of sin.
The first reading says that God is “Father” and “Redeemer.” There is no situation that he cannot improve. Nobody is so enslaved by sin that he or she cannot be freed and redeemed.
Today’s Gospel tells us that the Redeemer comes, but one has to be vigilant to be able to receive his salvation. Those who sleep will remain slaves to sin, and shall not be ransomed.
The second reading is also on this theme: the Christians of Corinth are held up to us as examples of vigilance.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1, 3-8.
In today’s first reading we get a glimpse of the difficulty people face when their waiting for God seems to be in vain. The exiles have returned from their captivity in Babylon, spurned on by fresh hopes that God will adopt them again as his people. Israel is a heap of ruins and the people can see no signs to confirm their hope. A few years have passed since the destruction of Jerusalem and its beautiful Temple. The people still squirm as they recall their defeat. Their eyes keep seeing the terrifying scenes of that July day of 587 BC.
In Babylon they had asked themselves why all this has happened to them and they raised their minds to God, and a moving prayer wells up from their hearts. This is one of the most beautiful prayers we find in the whole Bible. The first reading of today is part of that prayer beginning with verse 15.
At times God allows calamities and adversities to happen without an apparent reason; at times, too, he gives the impression of failing to keep his promises. The prophet first recalls the extraordinary interventions of God in favour of his people during the exodus from Egypt. He then pleads with God reminding him that he is their Father and to come to their rescue as they now humbly confess their sins.
Gathered in prayer, the Israelites realized that the cause of all their adversities befalling them was their sins and failing to carry out God’s will. The situation of the people of Israel in Babylon represents what happens to those who become slaves to self and sin.
When people are ensnared by the false promises of evil and stray away from God, at first they become deluded that they are moving towards new happiness, but end up finding only delusion, solitude, shame, humiliation, unhappiness and bitterness. They may wish then to turn back, but they do not know what to do or where to get help.
How can such people regain their freedom? How can they rise up out of the abyss they fallen into? When the people remember God as their Redeemer they bring the past into the present, and that sacred memory acts like a light in the midst of darkness. The memory of God’s love is life, it gives people a reason to wait; it builds up their hope, trust and strength. What they remember keeps them awake to what is still to come: God will live up to his ancient name and be the ‘Redeemer’ of his people. Israel never loses faith in God’s fidelity: ‘now YHWH, you are our Father, and we are the clay and you are the Potter; we are all the work of your hands’. The potter does not discard the clay if the work isn’t coming out as originally planned but will cleverly craft a new work of art.
Advent is the time when we are reminded that we have to wait for God. We have all misused the gifts that God has given us. We have taken for ourselves what God intended us to use for others. Even what seems like a virtuous achievement it is often defiled by selfish motives. We all need God’s intervention to deliver us from our sorry state. We all need a Messiah to bring us into harmony with God’s will, with God’s benevolence. The Messiah will indeed come at the end of time, but we also need the Messiah for our survival now. We cannot grasp God, we cannot possess God, we cannot see God; we can only wait for God to let himself be known.
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19.
The Psalm is likewise something of an alarm-call to God: ‘Shepherd of Israel, give ear, you who lead Joseph like a flock, shine forth, you who dwell on the cherubim’.
As in the first reading, God is called upon to ‘turn back, God of hosts, look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine’. The image of the ‘vine’ is an ancient symbol of Israel, of course, and it underlines how lost we are without God.
Then comes a promise which reveals that all along it was not God but Israel who was asleep: ‘we shall never turn away from you – give us life, and we shall call upon your name’.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9.
The second reading is also a wake-up call, but here it is addressed to believers who are not ‘walking their talk’. These believers are Paul’s Corinthians who had embraced Christianity with enthusiasm but like many of us today had slowly slipped back to their old ways of life.
Paul knew all about their weaknesses and shortcomings, but in spite of this, in his letter he acknowledges that God has worked wonders in them, endowing them with gifts, strengthening their fidelity to the Gospel, and now aiding them to be vigilant as they wait for the coming of the Lord. We are also awaiting the coming of the Lord, and in the meantime we dream of new heavens and a new earth where justice and love may reign. If, however, we look at our fragility, we may be tempted to get discouraged as we see that people would never be able to work together for the construction of a better world.
The Corinthians had their many shortcomings, and yet on this very first Sunday of Advent they are shown to us as models of those awaiting the Lord. God is not surprised at or shocked by our mistakes; all we have to do is to open up our hearts to his gifts.
In keeping with the spirit of Advent, today’s Gospel is an invitation to be vigilant for the ‘Second Coming of Jesus’. The Gospel is the conclusion of the speech of Jesus about the End-Time. In the words that follow, Jesus invites his disciples to be vigilant and always prepared.
In the Gospel reading this invitation is made three times to emphasize its importance. The disciples and we today are to be alert because we do not know when Jesus will return. The return of Jesus is likened to that of a master of a house. Before setting out on a journey the master gives to each person a specific task. The doorkeeper also has his work and has to keep awake to open to the master at any moment, even if he comes during the night. The doorkeeper’s job is to keep out unwelcome visitors and to open promptly to others.
The Gospel writers want to make us realize that to be a Christian is to belong to a family of which there is a head. The head of the family is not always physically present. It is though he has gone somewhere but has not abandoned his children. The master has told them what to do in his absence as they await his return. Some early Christians thought that Jesus would return during their lifetime and decided to stop working. Paul had to scold them and order them to resume their responsibilities (2 Th 3:10-13). Mark found it necessary also to remind his readers not to be idle just because Jesus is not physically present or to despair in the midst of the troubles because he will come back in victory.
In our communities we share our different responsibilities and ministries so that all members of the household are meaningfully occupied as they await Christ’s return. We must be faithful and watchful because we will have to give an account to the Master when he comes. Four weeks before Christmas, we hear a sober Gospel message. We are preparing for a festive season; Jesus warns us of an appointed time. Can this be the same event? We are swept up in decorating, meal planning, gift buying, and memories of past holidays. We are operating at the height of distraction. Jesus points simply and clearly to the future, warning us not to be lulled into inattention. At the end of the year, it is natural for us to be looking
back. As this season is such a powerful reminder of those we have loved and some we have lost, it is not surprising that we may lose ourselves in the past. The Church selects these Advent readings to urge our attention to the coming of Christ and the kingdom, an event that belongs not only to the past but also to the here and now, its perfection yet to be revealed.
The future holds hope only because we are convinced of God’s action in the past. That is why we retell the story again and again with each Advent. We all need to be reminded of God’s love. God is ever coming to us in life, light and love. The vigilant soul stays awake through constant prayerfulness or sensitivity to God. Nothing can replace a daily programme of prayer. Vigilance in the spiritual life keeps out any thoughts and tendencies, which would lead us away from God.
Hope is like a shining light in a dark place. On the first Sunday of Advent we celebrate the ‘hope’ we have in Jesus Christ, who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
1st Sunday of Advent Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … The situation of the people of Israel in Babylon represents what happens to those who become slaves to self and sin. When people are enslaved by the false promises of evil and stray away from God, at first they are convinced that they are moving towards a new and exiting happiness, but then end up finding only delusion, solitude, shame, humiliation, sadness, regret and bitterness.
Mon. … How can such a person regain his or her freedom? How can one rise up out of the abyss one has fallen into? God is our Redeemer who frees us from the slavery of sin if only we allow ourselves to be the ‘work of his hands’.
Tues. … Do we lose faith and trust in God when calamities and adversities tend to overwhelm us? We need to remind ourselves of the love and many blessings the Lord has given us. Advent is the time when we are reminded that we have to wait for God. We need God’s intervention to deliver us from our sorry state. We need a Messiah to bring us into harmony with God’s will.
Wed. … Every Advent gives us a wake-up call, an opportunity of a new beginning and a new start on our journey towards our salvation. We too like Paul’s Corinthians can slowly slip back to the secular values of life. God in his love and mercy gives us the opportunity of a new start each new liturgical year. Let us truly open up our hearts to this gift of love and life.
Thurs. … Jesus’ words are that God is likely to come into our presence at just about any moment, and we would do well to be watchful for such moments. God is in each person we live and work with. God is in the stranger we pass on the street. We must cultivate our eyes to see God in any and all places, in any and all circumstances. His overwhelming grace will be upon us when we least expect it. God is the Creator of all and ‘He’ is present in all creation.
Frid. … Jesus invites his disciples and us to be vigilant and always prepared. We must remain faithful servants because we will have to give an account of our lives when the Master returns. Jesus’ invitation is made three times to emphasize its great importance.
Sat. … Our vigilance will be seen by the manner in which we conduct the responsibilities given to us by the Master to serve in our Christian Community. We must not become idle or despair and give up in the midst of difficulties. We must trust in the Gospel, which continuously reminds us of God’s love and compassion for his people. Let us now stay awake through constant prayer and sensitivity to God.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, today at the start of the new liturgical year You have given us renewed hope and trust in our future. When we become overwhelmed by adversities, we pray for the grace and strength to persevere to remain faithful servants in the protection and knowledge that You are our God and Redeemer.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.