By Cosmas Ebebe
(First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019)
(Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Resp Psalm Ps 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7. 8-9; Rom 13:11-14; Mathew 24: 37-44.)
The season of Advent begins today. It is also the beginning of the Church’s new Liturgical year. In today’s reading, the prophet Isaiah (God’s spokesperson) invites us, “Come, let us go…” Go to where? Then, St. Paul adds that, “it is full time now for you to wake from sleep.”
These are words addressed to everybody: male and female; young and old. We respond to God’s invitation as individuals even when we are gathered together. We always have choices to make. It is consequent upon our choices, Jesus says in the gospel of today, “Two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one is left” You are invited to make a decision at this beginning of the new liturgical year.
2. God’s Message of Love in the Readings Today
The reason, God feeds us with words is because God loves us. God created us and has continued to sustain us even in the midst of all difficulties we may be facing. The Church which is the sacrament of God in the world gives us the message of God’s love for us in piecemeal. We follow the Church’s ordering of the message of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Today, as the season of Advent begins, God invites us in the words of Isaiah, “Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord… that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2: 3). As learners, sometimes we find it difficult to follow the rigours of training, especially because most of the demands of our souls are contrary to the demands of our bodies. God is inviting us to follow the discipline implied in mounting climbing.
The setting of the venue as the “mountain of the Lord” tells us that we have to train the flesh like a mountain climber. During mountaineering exercises especially, participants realize the need for thick trousers and solid shoes. I recall jumping from one piece of rock to another and stepping on a rock snake. The snake was exactly same colour as the rock and entirely unnoticed. It attacked me with the teeth and the tail. The bite landed on my canvass shoe and the tail stung my jeans trouser. I ran away while the snake reeled in agony. The venom did not reach me because of the recommended outfit.
Likewise, the season of Advent has to have some form of recommended outfit. The summary of the recommendation is, ‘Be Alert’ St. Paul says it thus, “It is full time now for you to wake from sleep…the night is far gone and the day is at hand” (Roms 13: 11). It is left for every individual to know what kind of sleep he had been ‘enjoying’ or engaged in. What is obvious is that the person who was conscious of the Advent and Christmas season of last year is nearer to his or her grave now than he/she was last year, ‘so the night is far gone’.
Our ‘sleep’ most often borders on relationships. Concerning relationships, we are reminded that, God “will judge between nations and arbitrate between many peoples”. And so, we “will hammer” our “swords into ploughshares”, and our “spears into sickles”. “Nations will not lift sword against nation, no longer will they learn how to make war” (Isaiah 2: 4). As part of our preparations for the coming of Jesus, all war instruments will be converted to farming instruments. The call is not just to stop war among people but to create peace by creating food security. Not only that wars would no longer be fought but that the art of warring would be abandoned; instead more energy should be vested on food production and agriculture. Let us take this message to our homes and places of work. No more wars in the homes, translated to mean, no verbal missiles, no abuses of any kind, no beatings either as aggravator or in revenge, no more drunken orgies that lead nowhere but ill behaviours, and no more shouting at one another.
Advent means that we cultivate positive virtue of community building akin to ploughing (use of ploughshares) and harvesting love marked in good relationships (use of sickles). For instance, voices that could be used in quarreling can be applied to singing songs: families can learn Christmas carols together. iPods, Podcasts and other internet facilities can help individual members to listen and learn before common practice for adults in a family. In other words, Advent begins with a call for common family activities aimed at converting battle/war instruments into peace gadgets. St Paul puts it beautifully in today’s reading,
The night is nearly over, daylight is on the way; so, let us throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and equip ourselves for the light. Let us live decently, as in the light of day (not artificial light of night which can be put off); with no orgies or drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy. Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ, and stop worrying about how your disordered natural inclinations may be fulfilled (Rom 13: 12-14).
These pleasurable disorders fighting against our spiritual growth plague humanity in ’ember’ months as if something is injected into the air we breathe. Such is the work of our enemy the devil who “is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1Pet 5:8). It is a blessing that this alert is being issued to Christians on this first week of Advent in the Church’s calendar. It is a privileged warning from God through the Church.
Jesus is kind enough to let us know that being together does not guarantee salvation of all. Each individual has to give account of his or her life. He gave instances of people who were together on same platform but judged differently by God because of their real contents hidden from common eyes: “Then of two men in the fields, one is taken one left; of two women grinding at the mill, one is taken, one left” (Matt 24: 40-41). Note, that Jesus used the example of the male gender together on men’s beat-the fields; and two women together on female’s knowhow- grinding mill for the table to drive the message home to both genders. While being alert, we must stay in prayer and not on our intellect alone.
3. Take-Away: BE ALERT!
Once upon a time there was a very strong soldier. He had never lost a battle before. His gun was always active and he was a sharp shooter who had not missed target before. He had conquered several domains singlehandedly. In fact, he rose to the rank of Major General. One day he dressed up for war as usual. He armed himself from head to toe, even his eye balls were not unprotected. After walking for a few hours, he was tired and decided to take a rest by a tree. Few minutes later, he started feeling something walking inside his clothes. The first thing was that he threw away his gun. In a few minutes, he had undressed himself totally: the army bullet proof, the helmet, the army boot, etc. He took off everything except his inner wear. While he was trying to remove the ant from his body, something very fatal happened: his enemy met him there and gunned him down. (Source: Adapted from WhatsApp forwarding). Pay attention to side effects of our actions and reactions.