1st Sunday of Advent (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Today , the first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Church’s liturgical calendar. We have just ended the old year with last Sunday’s celebration of the feast of Christ the King.

These two Sundays bring to our minds the nuances of advent as the coming of Jesus. There is the first advent which is the Incarnation. There is also the second advent which is the second coming of Jesus in the end-times.

Action starter: Make a spiritual recollection during Advent.

Advent is therefore a remembrance. We bring to mind and make present once more the event of God becoming man in Jesus. It is this first meaning that seems to have taken hold of the Catholic Filipino’s psyche and imagination – advent as preparation for Christmas.

Advent is also a hopeful expectation of Jesus’ coming again. It is to pray, “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.” It is to look forward to the day when Jesus who is the Alpha and the Omega will be all in all. It will be a day of a new creation and restoration. In this second sense, advent is a time of vigilance, of watchful waiting.

Our Advent attitude should therefore be that of joyful expectation. If we know that someone we love and care about is coming, we will be full of excitement. This is far different from the attitude of doomsday expectation where fear predominates. As a parish priest, I was asked by people to bless boxes of candles for the reason that they were told the end of the world was coming and only blessed candles would give light. There was an unspoken fear of the end of the world.

That may be the reason why in the Philippine churches, advent seems to be more focused on the Incarnation than on expectations of the second coming. The first is joyful while the second is fearful. Perhaps we need to recover the joyful sense of the second Advent. Christ will come again and therefore we should be waiting in hope.

Jesus tells his disciples in today’s gospel, “Be on watch, be alert, for you do not know when the time will come” (Mk. 13:33). This admonition is similar to what Jesus told His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemani, “Keep watch, and pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Mk. 14:38). The waiting disciple must be vigilant.

We may have experienced keeping vigil over sick and dying persos. We keep watch in solidarity with the person and his family, waiting hopefully for the good news of recovery. This is evident in our area of the country. Hospitals have to make policies limiting the number of relatives keeping watch over a patient, otherwise truckloads of clan members would be in and out the room.

When Jesus told his disciples at Gethsemani to watch and pray, it was to be in solidarity with Him at a most critical moment in His life – the coming Passion. It was a time of crisis, a time of decision-making, a final confrontation with his mission and destiny.

Let us recover the liturgical meaning of Advent as a time of vigilant expectation. “Christ will come again,” this we say after the consecration of bread and wine. God touched human history as flesh and blood in Jesus Christ. He fullfilled the earlier expectation of the coming of a Messiah. God is true to His promise. In the end time Christ will come again to restore all things to the Father.

Advent is celebtation of the past, the present and the future. We bring to mind the first coming of Jesus as Word-made-flesh. We are also open to the Spirit of Jesus who animates us everyday. And we look forward with joy to the coming of Jesus in the final days.

In Filipino celebrations, Christmas begins as early as November. This is largely due to the commercializtion of Christmas. We need to go back to the sacralization of Christmas. Before the arrival, is the expectation and the waiting. Let us celebrate Advent before celebrating Christmas.