Homily for the first Sunday of Advent, year A

According to the solar calendar which measures the time it takes the earth to orbit the sun, we begin a new year every first of January. However, the Church begins her liturgical year on every first Sunday of Advent. So, we can greet ourselves with a happy New Year!

Advent is one of the liturgical seasons in the Catholic Church, a time we especially look in two directions at once. This may sound strange; looking in two directions at once, but still, as strange as it is, that is what we do in Advent, we look back in time to when the word of God took flesh and dwelt among us and we also look forward in time to when the same word of God will come in glory to judge the living and the dead. Our readings today reflect the dual vision of Advent, we see the prophet Isaiah in our first reading prophecy. Isaiah saw a vision of the coming days, and that vision came to Isaiah at the time when the peace of the people was disturbed by rumors of war and possible destruction which eventually happened. But Isaiah foresaw the restoration of Jerusalem, how the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and how the people would go to the house of Jacob to be taught to walk in the path of the Lord. Isaiah’s prophecy was about the restoration of peace when nations will not lift swords against each other. Isaiah’s prophecy was about the first coming of Jesus the prince of peace. In the Advent season, therefore, we look back in time to the incarnation of God in preparation to commemorate the birth of Christ at Christmas. While the prophet Isaiah is reminding us today to look back in time, St. Paul is telling us in our second reading that Christ’s mission is accomplished, we are to duel not in the past but to live in the present. St. Paul said, “You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.” We are called to wake up from spiritual slumber to hold unto the finished work of Christ and live according to our faith. The advent season is the time to renew our hope in Christ and to be penitential in our hopeful preparations to celebrate Christmas. But again, Advent is a season we especially look forward in time, we look into the future as St. Matthew reminds us in our gospel passage this morning.

Though in Advent we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, Matthew reminds us that Christ is not coming back as a baby, he compares the second coming of Christ with Noah’s days. “As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark.” Life was normal, everything was good, and no one expected the flood that wiped life out of the earth in the days of Noah. Matthew reminds us that advent is not only a time to commemorate a past event, it is also a time to prepare to face the future event, the second coming of Christ. Keep awake, Matthew wrote, because we do not know the day nor the hour.

The Church calls on all her children this season to spiritually prepare to receive Christ anew, to look in two directions, the first and the second coming of Christ. We are all called to be part of this preparation, to wait in hope for the coming of Christ. But I tell you this morning that there’s danger in this waiting. Many Christians may focus their attention on the magi, the crib, and the birth of Christ. Yes, that is what the advent season is all about, to prepare to celebrate Christmas, that is what the Church asked us to do. To prepare, to wait in the hope to commemorate the birth of Christ at Christmas. It is a beautiful season with a beautiful liturgy we must appreciate. But the danger is there for many people to wait to the extent of forgetting the person they’re waiting for. So, stay awake therefore because he the world is waiting for is already at the door knocking. In our response to the Church’s call to prepare to commemorate our Lord’s birth, we must keep in mind that our waiting is not for the baby Jesus. We are preparing to commemorate the mystery of the incarnation in anticipation of his second coming, and he is coming back as a judge. This waiting period may be confusing and discouraging especially now that the world is experiencing all kinds of violence, war, rumors of war, and the lingering effects of COVID-19. But as Noah built an Ark to rescue those ready to be saved, so also God the Father builds the ‘new Ark’ in Christ Jesus. As we prepare this season to celebrate Christmas, may our prayers and preparation help us remain steadfast to meet with the Lord when he comes again as judge.

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as a pastor in two different parishes, he was a one-time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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