1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR C ON NOVEMBER 28, 2021 (R. 1: Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-9, 10, 14; R. 2: 1 Thessalonians 3: 12-4: 2; Gospel: Luke 21: 25-28, 35-36)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
I have a very close friend, Fr. Ernest Mawah in Nigeria. We began the journey to the priesthood at the same time from the Minor (High School) Seminary, and we were ordained priests on the same day for the Catholic Diocese of Idah in Nigeria. Sometimes, when we talk on phone, we joke about the time difference between Nigeria and San Diego. Presently, Nigeria is 9 hours ahead of San Diego, so when it is 9:00 a.m. here in San Diego, it is 6:00 p.m. in Nigeria. Some days, when I call him after my weekday morning Mass at about 9:00 a.m., he greets me, “Good evening,” then I correct him saying, “Excuse me, my friend, it is good morning here.” Other times, when I miss his calls in the morning, I call back explaining that I was in the Chapel for my morning prayer when he called. He would then say, “Why do you say morning prayer at night? I just ate my dinner and now ready for my night prayer.” Then I would fight back saying, “Keep quiet, my friend, we are just waking up here.”
One day, we were talking on phone, I told him that Nigeria is in a better position than San Diego. I explained that being 9 hours ahead of San Diego, Nigeria receives the blessings of God 9 hours before San Diego, after all, the Sun rises in Nigeria 9 hours before rising in San Diego. He agreed with me, but he added that there is also a sense in which the position of San Diego is more advantageous. He added that, I would only benefit from that vantage point if I was nice to him. He explained that since Nigeria is 9 hours ahead of San Diego, at the time of the rapture, at the final coming of Jesus Christ, the trumpet would sound in Nigeria 9 hours before San Diego, and so if I was nice to him, he would give me a call to alert me saying, “O Boy, the Master is here! You have 9 hours to clean up your ‘mess!’” We both laughed.
At this time of the liturgical year, when we listen to readings about the final coming of Christ and of the end of the world, one of the things I like bringing into my homilies is to ask parishioners, “What would you do if an angel comes to tell you now that you have one more hour to the end of the world?” It is usually interesting to hear the various answers. Some would say, “I will call my parents and tell them how much I love them”, others would say, “I will go and reconcile with anyone I am not in good terms with.” There are others with answers like, “I will withdraw all my money from the bank and share with the poor.” The most common response is “I will go to a priest and confess all my sins.” At the end of all the sharing, I would say to the congregation, “I have bad News for you: I don’t think you will be told that you have one more hour. So, begin to do all you have said now because now may be the time.”
Considering today’s Gospel passage, it is possible to protest, “Out of place!” The gospel passage of today seems to have been wrongly selected for the first Sunday of Advent. In Advent, we prepare for the birth of Jesus. The birth of a child should bring joy and celebration; why then do we have a reading that evokes fear today? Why does Jesus seem to frighten us with his words today? But come to think of it, even in our individual families, do infants not evoke healthy fears in the adult members of the family? The infants do not say much; it is either yes or no. For “Yes,” they smile, laugh, or keep calm, and for “No,” they cry. No negotiation; no compromise. Some time ago, I had an infant baptism here. Shortly after I poured water over the baby’s head, he began to cry. The ceremony immediately paused – Mom, Dad, Sponsors, and other family members and friends began running from pillar to post, trying to interpret the cry and respond appropriately. At that point, it dawned on me that infants have a lot of authority. It is either their way or the highway!
At Christmas, we shall meet the Infant-Baby, Jesus Christ, who does not welcome compromise. You are either for him or not for him. No middle position, no political correctness, no sitting on the fence; it is either yes or no. On the cross, he would stretch out his hands and ask us to choose between his left and his right, no mid-point. At judgment he will take the sheep to the right and the goats to the left. If you love God and your neighbor, you have chosen the right; but if you do not show love, you have chosen the left. The marking scheme will be based on, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people you do unto me.”
Jesus is coming at Christmas as an infant, very delicate. You make him smile when you show love to your neighbor, and you make him cry when you don’t show love to your neighbor. And so, I ask: will you make him smile or will you make him cry? The choice is yours!