“Take heed, watch and pray” (Mk13:33)

Sunday of Week 1 of Advent (Year B)
Isaiah 63:16-17,64:1,3-8; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

This Sunday marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. It also marks the beginning of the Christmas season which is preceded by four Sundays of ardent preparation. Advent derives its name from the Latin Adventus, a term which was used to refer to the arrival , coming or presence of the king especially when he visited his provinces. For Christians during Advent we prepare and celebrate the two comings of our Lord Jesus Christ. St Cyril of Jerusalem teaches us of the two comings of Christ: In the first, we prepare and celebrate the coming of our Lord wrapped in swindling clothes in a manger when he assumed the lowliness of our human flesh, and when he endured the cross and despised its shame. In the second coming, we prepare and celebrate the coming of our Lord clothed in his glory and accompanied by his angels. Thus in the second coming we prepare for Christ’s coming in judgment at the end of time. Cyril exhorts us to celebrate the first coming while we wait in hope for the second coming (Catechesis of St Cyril of Jerusalem).
The gospel reading of the first Sunday of Advent invites to be vigilant as we wait for coming of the Lord. The insistence to stay awake marks the mood of Advent. During this time we are called to keep watching and make an interior preparation as we want to meet the Lord.
The first reading invites us to enter into the penitential mood which is proper for this season. Isaiah addresses God with words of communal lament. People ask God in desperation: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” They are seeking for God’s deliverance from their suffering and sinfulness. They yearn for an intervention of the Lord: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you!” Using an emotive language, they raise their prayer to God whom they call, their Father and Redeemer. Jesus will later teach his disciples to address God as their Father just as he did. By calling God, their Redeemer they want to remind him of how he once redeemed his people from the bondage of Satan. The Redeemer here has a sense of a Goel in Hebrew, that is a nearest relative who had the duty of restoring a person’s rights and repurchasing a relative who might have been sold into slavery. In this reading, God is addressed as the Redeemer, in a sense that he is the only one who can save his people because he is their Father.
God is also called the Potter and the people the clay. Thus, the people are the work of his hands. God can forgive them and restore their dignity.
God is indeed our Father and Redeemer, he is ready to forgive us our sins. Sin makes us to drift away from him. Life under the dominion of Satan is painful and we would not like to be under such a dominion a minute longer. The coming of Christ reminds us that God forgave us our sins without any merit on our part. Thus, he sent his only son, our Lord Jesus Christ to redeem us. God is our Potter, our Maker, let us ask him to fashion us into the image he wants. Let this time of advent be the time when the Lord is recreating in us a new spirit of the true and holy sons and daughters of the Lord.
May our Mother Mary who welcomed, our Redeemer with joy accompany us on this pilgrimage of Advent. Amen.