FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (Cycle B)
You can make your own prayer or use the following
Father in heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Introduction to the Gospel
Mark in today’s gospel counsels his readers to be constantly on the watch, to be busy, but not obsessed with the tasks at hand and to be daily prepared for a divine surprise.
We read and study the gospel according to Mark [13.33-37]
33: Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.
34: It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
35: Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
36: May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
37: What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
The following commentary may help to get a deeper understanding of the text.
An ancient psalmist once praised God for the fact that wisdom could be found spilling forth from the mouths of babes (Ps 8.3). When a child delights an adult with a gem of innocent insight, the psalmist’s words are often repeated in affirmation of the fact. Most would agree that there are also other lessons to be learned from these little ones.
While their motivation may not necessarily be the purest, many children undergo a remarkable attitude adjustment in the weeks before Christmas. Traditional songs remind children that Santa Claus is coming to town, that he’s making a list and checking it twice. . . that he knows who’s naughty or nice. Eager to please and eager to be pleased when Christmas finally arrives, children do chores without complaint and make such efforts at goodness that their behavior during the rest of the year dims by comparison. On the eve of the long-awaited day, many little eyes and ears strain to remain alert so as to be able to catch a glimpse when the great jolly one appears. Perhaps this yearly Christmas phenomenon which brings out the best in our children also holds an insight from which adults may benefit.
Mark, today, advises his readers to remain watchful and alert, and, like good servants, to be about the task of doing the best that can be expected of them while awaiting the coming of Christ. These admonitions and others like them are repeated each Advent to awaken in believers a sense of the imminence of Jesus’ coming and to foster an attitude of quiet, childlike eagerness with which to prepare a welcome.
Significantly, each of the servants in Mark’s illustrative parable (vv.34-36) had been given a specific task by the master. In his writings, Paul preferred to speak in terms of the unique gifts and charisms which each believer had received (1 Corinthians 12). Luke and Matthew told similar parables regarding the talents entrusted to each servant by their master (Matthew 25.14-30; Luke 19.12-27). While children spend December in anticipation of receiving gifts, the spirituality of Advent challenges believers to acknowledge and develop the gifts (tasks, talents) each has already been given and to devote these toward the realization of the coming reign of God in Christ.
Although some interpreters of scripture press the text into a literalness not intended by its various authors, the phrase, “you do not know when the appointed time will come” (vs 33) seems to be an exception to the fundamentalist rule. As Arthur J. Dewey (Proclamation, Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 1996) has noted, with the approach of the third Christian millennium, “much ink will be spilt and hard disks filled to capacity over speculation concerning the end times. . . Such simplistic interpretations actually miss the deeper possibilities of this material. This passage calls for a special alertness that permeates one’s entire life.”
Jesus, himself had professed to be ignorant of the specifics of the end time (see Mark 13.32). Neither would his disciples (or any one else) be privy to that information (vs. 33). But rather than be frenzied by anxiety or lulled into a torpor, Jesus called for constancy, conscientiousness and a sharp eye. In further comment on this gospel, Arthur J. Dewey (op. cit.) advises, “Life is in movement, the game’s afoot! We are not victims to the givens of our culture; instead, we are responsible servants of the future.”
How does God’s Word apply to our situation now? The following questions may help.
1. As vigilant gatekeepers watching for the Lord of the house, what signs do you see that tell you God is present in the world and in your life?
2. Is our life a long vigil focused on the coming of the Lord? Do we use the energy and resources given us by the Lord to fight the structuralized violence and injustices of today's world in order to hasten the dawning of joy and peace upon us all?
III. ORATIO AND CONTEMPLATIO
W e spend some time in silent prayer to meet the risen Lord who works in us through the power of the holy Spirit. We can repeat and keep repeating each of the following “mantras” or others from the text until we reach a still point where we can pray without words, where the Lord takes hold of us and transform us through his power.
Jesus said to his disciples: Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come
Visit a sick friend and/or a sick person who has no friend and be for that person an instrument of the coming of the Lord.