Good morning my dear brothers and sisters. Here are the readings and reflection for First Sunday of advent Year B (29th November 2020). READINGS Isaiah 63:16-17, 19, 64:1, 3-8 Psalm, Ps. 80 1 Corinthians 1:3-7 Gospel, Mark 13:33-37 COME BACK TO ME WITH ALL YOUR HEARTS: ‘So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’ Mk. 13:36-37 Season of advent: the purple season is here again, the advent season. Some people have confessed that the purple season confuses them, because of the purple/violet colour which identifies the Lenten season as well. That which is common to two seasons is actually the colour of the season; and secondly, the low-key dimension of the celebrations of the liturgies. In other words, it is a season where we await, long and celebrate in view of bigger events: The advent season prepares us for the Christmas and the Lenten season prepares us for the Easter. In the advent season, the church in her liturgy calls her faithful children to ‘return to the Lord’, ‘stay awake, for the Lord the coming’, ‘come back to me with all your hearts.’ You are all welcome to the purple season of advent; and may the good Lord prepare us through his holy word for his coming at Christmas and his ultimate Second Coming at the end of time’, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Our filthy righteousness before God: the prophet in the first reading observed that when we happen to exercise one little act of charity or keep the commandments for sometime or for few days, when we seem to be faithful and show some integrity we pride ourselves as being saintly and righteous before God. But the prophet Isaiah says, if God were to take a look at this supposed righteousness of ours what he actually sees is our filthiness, which is like rag before him. No wonder when the same prophet was shown the glory of God, he cried out, ‘woe is me, for I am done, for I am a man of unclean lips and dwell in the midst of men of unclean lips. Behold my eyes have seen the glory of the Lord’ Isa. 6:5 It was said of St. Thomas Aquinas, that when the Lord revealed his glory to him, Thomas was so astounded that he saw all he had written about God as straw. In all truth, man counts for nothing at all in God’s presence; what we actually enjoy are his mercies and graces. So as St. Paul says, ‘he is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord’ 1 Cor. 1:30-31. God of hosts bring us back: here the prophet refers to the tribe of Jacob, the Israelites; but we are now the new Israelites, the chosen people of the Lord, you and I baptized children of the new order of grace. According to St. Paul, ‘he has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father; built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone’ Eph. 2:14,18 & 20. We were created in the image and likeness of God and not in any other’s image; we belong to him and not to another person. Therefore, if we stray he allowed us and now Isaiah begs on behalf of sinful humanity that he should bring us back: ‘Return, for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance’ Isa. 63:17. The Psalmist joins his voice to that of the prophet, singing and praying, ‘God of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved’ Ps. 80:7. We indeed pray for the restoration of the glory of the Lord in our land, in the various aspects of our country, Nigeria; we pray for restoration in the lives of each and everyone of us: families, friends, the young, the old, the elderly; in the lives of indigenes as well as foreigners. What we must do to stay awake: Our Lord in the gospel reading calls our attention to his coming. Since this coming (Second) is quite different from that first coming as a child, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem we are to call this Coming (Second) to mind constantly. In other words, he shall come this time around as a judge, as a rewarder; he comes like a thief, who does not tell his time of coming. Here the dictum of St. Augustine applies, ‘God who created us without us, will not save us without us.’ That is, even though the prophet cries out to the Lord, even though the Psalmist chants for our restoration, our loving God cannot force his will on us: ‘Heaven helps those who help themselves.’ The Lord says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me’ Rev. 3:20. So, at this first week of advent, we are being called to ‘stay awake.’ Stay awake to hear the knock on the door, the door of your heart, the door of your soul.’ What must you do to stay awake? Begin by preparing for Christmas: Get for yourself God’s armour as your new clothes, salvation as your new headgear, telling the truth as your new belt round your waist, the readiness to proclaim the good news as your new shoes on your feet and uprightness as your necklace Ic.f. Eph. 6:11-14. These should be our advent preparation for the Lord’s coming. We should not allow ourselves to be carried away with all the external preparations and celebrations at Christmas. Let us pray: Let us pray that the Lord may find us watching and awake at his coming. May the good Lord increase his graces in us to strengthen us against the temptations and trials in our present world. We pray that we may in charity support one another in our spiritual journey to the kingdom. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord and God. Amen. © Fr. Felix Onemheghie, OP


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