1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A ON DECEMBER 1, 2019 (R. 1: Isaiah 2: 1- 5; Psalm 122: 1- 9; R. 2: 2 Romans 13: 11- 14; Gospel: Matthew 24:37- 44)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Happy New Year! I hope no one is surprised to hear me say, “Happy New Year” in December. For the secular calendar, the year begins on the first day of January, but it is different in Catholic Liturgy. The liturgical year begins today with the First Sunday of Advent. The liturgical year centers on Christ; it tells the story of Christ. The typical way to tell a person’s story is to follow a logical and chronological sequence, beginning with the person’s birth or with the events leading up to the person’s birth. So, we start our liturgical year with the events leading up to the birth of Christ.
This New Year is the Liturgical Year “A” for Sundays and Year II for weekdays. We have three cycles for Sundays (A, B, and C), and two for Weekdays (I and II). In this Liturgical Year A, we are going to be looking at the life of Jesus through the eyes of the Evangelist Matthew, so for most of the Sundays, the Gospel reading at Mass will be from the Gospel according to Matthew.
The liturgical year begins with the season of Advent. The word advent, from the Latin adventus, means arrival or coming. It is a season of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. In this season, we reflect on the three different senses of the coming of Christ, namely, the First Coming, the Second (Final) Coming, and the Third Coming. For the First Coming, we commemorate the mystery of the incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. In the sense of the Second Coming, we prepare ourselves for the final coming of Christ in glory. At the first coming, he came as our savior; at the Second Coming, he will come as our judge. The outcome of the judgment will be determined by whatever happens between the First Coming and the Second Coming. In the sense of his Third Coming, we remind ourselves of the daily and every-moment coming of Christ. Here, he comes to us through the scriptures, the sacraments, through his ministers, through our neighbors, through the daily events of our lives, and through our individual deaths.
Now watch it! During this season, people will become busy, and those who are already busy will soon become busier; people will be engaged in more shopping and more work. Many times, the rush of the season tends to overshadow the reason for the season. Think about how some of us camped out for hours in the rain and in the cold waiting to make the best of Black Friday sales. Yet in a few days, weeks, months, or years to come, some of the items we bought will end up at the bottom of a drawer, the back of a closet, or if lucky enough, they will end up as part of our next garage sale.
The first coming already has occurred, the third coming happens every moment, but we do not know the time of the second coming. The Gospel passage gives us a clue to how it will look it; there, Jesus says, it will be like the days of Noah when people were caught up in the everyday affairs of life, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage when the flood surprised them. On that day, “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken, and one will be left.” It is not that one man will be in the field, and the other one in the Church; it is not that one woman will be grinding at the mill, and one woman will be praying. They will be in the same place when some will be taken, and some will be left. God does not judge only the external; the interior matters a lot. The fact that we are all in the Church does not guarantee that all of us will be taken should the second coming happen now. We are all in the same Church, but are we here with the same motive, disposition, or intention? What are you thinking about the brother or sister sitting next to you? What are you planning to do for the rest of the day? What fruits do you bear in your relationships within and outside your family?
Fr. Eduardo A. Samaniego, S.J., in his book, “If you preach it they will come,” shares a story, which he got from Henri Nouwen’s book, “Clowning in Rome.” The story has it that a little child was watching a sculptor who was using his hammer to chisel a large block of marble. The little boy had no idea what it was all about. After a few weeks, the boy came back to the same spot, and he was surprised to see a large lion sitting where the marble was. In his amazement, he asked the sculptor, “Sir, tell me, how did you know there was a lion in the marble.” The sculptor smiled and replied, “Before I saw the lion in the marble, I sat quietly and reflected before the marble for a long time. I then discovered that I have a lion in my heart, and the lion in my heart recognized the lion in the marble, begging me to set it free. Then all I had to do was remove what wasn’t lion in the marble.”
The Book of Genesis tells us that God created us in His image and likeness. So, there is a piece of divinity hidden in every one of us. The season of Advent allows us to reflect and pray more to let the Christ that is hidden in us discover the Christ that is entrapped in our neighbors, in all the creatures of God, and all the events of life begging to be released. At this Mass, we officially welcome the candidates preparing for the sacraments of Christian Initiation. Beginning from today, we will continue to help them as they reflect and pray to allow the Christ that is hidden in them discover the Christ that is hidden in the Sacraments and the Church (the mystical body of Christ).
As we continue on our journey through life, we seek happiness; we seek joy, we seek peace. Many times, we run around looking for peace, we travel long distances in search of peace, but the truth of the matter is that God has already put it in us, He only wants us to take time to reflect and pray so as to discover that peace in us, and our nearest and dearest. When St. Paul chiseled out all the unnecessary things in his life after his conversion, he counted them as rubbish because of the joy he found in Christ (cf. Philippians 3:8). St. Augustine made a similar confession after his conversion, he chiseled out all the unnecessary things in this his life, and he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” May the Holy Spirit lead us to this same realization that we may find true peace and happiness in this life and in the life to come, through Christ our Lord. Amen.