Today is the first Sunday of Advent. This begins the B cycle of the liturgical calendar. The dominant gospel of this liturgical year will be Mark. As we may recall, the last three Sundays was a gradual introduction to the Advent theme of watchfulness, which centers on the Second Coming of Jesus. In this regard, the parable of the ten virgins; the talents; and the feast of Christ the King were all pointing in this direction. Since there is this expectation of the return of Jesus on earth, this season urges watchfulness and readiness. This is what the gospel of today is all about.
There is an interesting parallelism taking place in the gospel of today. On the one hand, we have these apparent cognates: be on guard; be alert; be on the watch; and watch. All these are in the imperative. On the other hand, we have the gerund: sleeping; put in opposition to watch, etc. Here, there is a contrast between sleeping and awake. Hence, the gospel of today presents us with two possible situations of the Christian: We have the “awake-Christians” and the “sleeping-Christians.” This recalls the parable of the ten virgins; where we have the five “absent virgins” who could not keep watch to receive the groom because they went away in search of oil. They were unprepared. It is also repudiation of the dormant disciple in the parable of the talents, where the dormant one took the easy way out and buried the talent. And of course, this gospel also mirrors the judgement segment of Matthew 25, where those who were awake were those who visited the sick, because a sleeping person does not make visitations, unless astral journeys, which have no relevance to the present universe of discourse.
Why should we be watchful? We should do so because there is injustice and wickedness in the world. The Lord will come back to rectify the anomaly of evil in the world. The rectification will take place at the end of the world, when there will be a cosmic battle where God will inflict a decisive defeat on Satan and his cohort. The faithful ones will be spared of eternal destruction during this turbulent period. In the end, they will become the new citizens of the New Jerusalem. In this regard, the book of Revelation talks about a “New Heaven” and “New Earth” (Revelation 21:1). In the New Testament, this marks the end of human history and the time of divine judgement to separate the “sheep” from the “goat” as we saw last Sunday (Matthew 25:31-33).
In our Old Testament reading, the prophet Isaiah leads us in prayer and helps us to recall God’s past favors and blessings on his people, Israel, especially at the exodus from Egypt, to the land of freedom. He goes on to plead with him, reminding him that he is their Father; asking him to come to their rescue as they now humbly confess their sins. As the new people of God, the new Israel, with Isaiah, let us beckon the Lord to return for the sake of his servants. Let us with great longing, ask him to please rend the heavens and come down. In sincerity of heart, with the prophet, let us make our prayer, expressing how we would like him to meet us doing right. Let us call upon Our God and tell him that he is our Father, we are the clay. He is the potter, we are all the work of his hands (see Isaiah 63:16-17, 19: 64:2-7). With this the prophet speaks about the coming judgement of God, while for us, with it, we are saying Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus !
In every Advent, the Church reminds us of the Second Coming of Christ or the Parousia and urges us to be “awake.” As disciples of Christ who live between his first coming in the mystery of the Incarnation, and His second coming in the Parousia, we must be watchful, by living in the Mystery of His Presence here and now, celebrated in the Sacraments of the Holy Church. While we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we must be watchful by living always in the state of grace; keeping the commandments of God; living as he did, loving as he loved, and following the ways he laid down for us in His first coming, and looking forward with hope to His second coming in the end.
In this regard, let the witness born to Christ by St. Paul and the apostles he confirmed among us that we may lack no spiritual gifts, as we await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through it, may God strengthen us to the end, so that we will be blameless on the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen