1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B ON NOVEMBER 29, 2020 (R. 1: Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7; Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19; R. 2: 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9; Gospel: Mark13: 33-37)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
WHO IS HE?
One Sunday morning, the new Pastor of a Parish began his homily by asking the members of his congregation how many of them did their homework from the previous Sunday by reading and reflecting on Mark 17. About 99% of them raised their hands up, indicating that they read and reflected on Mark 17. The Pastor then said, “Unfortunately, the Gospel according to Mark has only 16 Chapters, so my homily today will be based on the sin of telling lies.”
My dearly beloved in Christ, with this Mass, we begin a new liturgical year, Cycle B for Sundays and Year I for weekdays. The liturgical year revolves around Jesus Christ, and so it makes a lot of sense to begin the year with the preparation for the birth of Christ. For this reason, the first season of the liturgical year is Advent. The word “Advent” comes from Latin Adventus, which means “arrival” or “coming.” In the season of Advent, we reflect on and prepare for the three arrivals or comings of Jesus Christ. The first arrival commemorates his first coming when he was born in human flesh at Christmas to save us. The second arrival is also referred to as his final coming when he will come back no longer as the Savior but as the Judge. The third coming is between the first and the second. It happens every day, and every moment, when Jesus comes to us in the Sacred Word, in the Sacraments, in our neighbors, and through different moments of grace in our lives.
In this liturgical year B, Mark will be our tour guide. This means that for most of the Sundays this year, our Gospel readings will be from the Gospel according to Mark. All the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell the story of the same Jesus Christ, but each has his own unique emphasis and focus. For example, at the end of this homily, if I ask you to share your experience of this homily, people are going to emphasize different areas of the homily depending on their areas of interest and attention. That is why the four evangelists are not exactly the same in their presentation of the story of Jesus Christ.
One thing that stands out about Mark’s account of the Gospel is that he wanted to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” Reading through the Gospel according to Mark, we can easily find people asking themselves the questions, “Who is he?” “What is this? With what authority he preaches! He even orders evil spirits and they obey Him?” (Mark 1: 27). “How can he speak like this…who can forgive sins except God?” (Mark 2: 7) “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him!” (Mark 4: 41). Is he not the carpenter? (cf. Mark 6). Who is this man with all these great teachings and great works?
In answering this question, “Who is Jesus?” Mark uses a style of writing that is technically known as the envelope style, sandwich style, or intercalation. This is a style of writing whereby the writer begins with an idea, and at the end, he returns to the same idea. And so Mark begins by telling us that “This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1: 1). These are words that we can easily say now without fears, but that was not the case when Mark first wrote these words. He wrote at a time when the emperor Caesar was “worshipped” and was addressed as “son of god.” So, at the beginning of his account of the Gospel, Mark wanted to make it clear that not Caesar, but Jesus Christ is the real son of God. In the middle of the gospel, people questioned the identity of Jesus. And towards the end of the Gospel, “The captain who was standing in front of him saw how Jesus died and heard the cry he gave; and he said, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15: 39).
My dearly beloved in Christ, this is the One we are waiting for at Advent. He is Jesus the Son of God. The season of Advent invites us to wait for Him. But the truth is that we are not good waiters. We are not trained to wait especially in this age of instant coffee, microwave ovens, split second copy makers, drive-through food places, etc. All we need do is just to press the right button and we have the world at our beck and call. Amid all these, Advent reminds us that there is something beautiful about waiting. Listen to an expectant mother, and you will hear the beauty of how she waits for nine long months as she patiently monitors the changes going on within her.
Advent teaches us the good that comes from waiting. This is not the kind of waiting that is characterized by anxiety, but a kind of waiting that is characterized by hope and anticipation. It is not a kind of waiting that is characterized by idleness, but by doing what the Master has asked us to do until he returns like in today’s Gospel passage. Our waiting at Advent finds fulfillment in the birth of Christ.
There are things that we cannot just achieve instantly; the waiting time adds to the worth of what we are waiting for. And so, what are you already giving up on because it is taking forever to arrive? It can be either justice for all, peace in the world, a positive turn around in your relationships, economic equality, job, admission to the school of your choice, healing, marriage, fruit of the womb, shelter or the conversion of someone dear to you? We unite them all with our waiting for the birth of the Son of God that this Christmas may bring answers to all our prayers, through Christ our Lord. Amen.