First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B
By Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

Theme: Christ Is Coming at the End of Time

First Reading: Isaiah 63:16b-17,19b;64:2-7
A Prophetic Appeal for a Divine Revisit

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
A Prayer for Protection

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Paul Thanks God for the Faith of the Corinthians.

Gospel Reading: Mark 13:33-37
Need to be Watchful and Ready When the Son of Man Comes

Background on the Gospel Reading and the Homily

As we begin the season of Advent today, we commence the Church’s new liturgical year 2020 – 2021. Sunday Mass Readings are arranged on a three-year cycle according to which we alternate between the three synoptic gospels, whereas the Gospel of John is interspersed throughout all three years. We have now entered the second year (or the Cycle B) of the three-year cycle. In this Year B, the Sunday readings are from the Gospel of Mark.

What we have in today’s gospel is about the second coming of Jesus at the end of time, found in the Eschatological Discourse of the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Mark. He began this chapter speaking of the end event referring to the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. First Jesus was questioned repeatedly by the scribes and the Pharisees about the oncoming catastrophe, and now in Mk 13:4 by his disciples—Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Jesus warns them about the difficulties to come. In today’s gospel, Jesus concludes the warnings to them. Jesus cautions them of the need for watchfulness because the Son of Man will not give any warning before His arrival. For only the Father knows the exact hour. There is the danger of disciples being caught unawares at His arrival.

This chapter reflects the life situation which the Markan community was living through. It is most likely that the Gospel of Mark would have been written around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. The Markan community was already living the difficult times of Roman persecutions of Jews/Christians as well as social upheaval that followed. In such difficult times, Mark wanted to encourage the members of his community by recalling that Jesus had foretold of such difficulties. They needed to remain alert and watchful.

The word Advent is etymologically connected to the Latin verb advenire meaning ‘to come.’ In advent we recall two types of Jesus’s comings, namely, the second coming and the first historical coming at Christmas. During the first part of Advent, namely, from the First Sunday in Advent up to December 16, we reflect on the second coming of Jesus, while in the second part of Advent from Dec 16 – 24, we concentrate on the historical birth of Jesus.

So, now as we are in this first part of Advent, let us continue on an important aspect of our Christian life about which we began reflecting in the month of November, namely, on the life of the world to come. All life forms continue after apparent death or destruction, some physically, others spiritually. No physical property is destroyed as reminded by the French Chemist Antione Lavoisier (1743 – 1794), the father of modern chemistry who formulated the Law of Conservation of Mass. If physical properties cannot be destroyed, how much more will the non-physical things? Soul and mind live for eternity. The definitive reign of eternity begins with the second coming of Jesus, the Son of Man. This entry into eternity is not automatic. A correctly ethical and God-fearing life is a sine qua non for it. Think of last Sunday’s gospel reading, the Parable of the Sheep and Goat (Mt 25:31-46). Let these four weeks of preparation for Christmas be for an intense experience of returning to the merciful Father by forfeiting our sinful ways. Thus, whenever the end may come in and whatever manner it be, we stand ready. Living righteously, we have no fear of being unprepared. This ought to lead to a good confession in Advent.  

Happy Advent! Heureux Avènement! Buon Avvento! Feliz Adviento! Feliz Avdento! Fröhlicher Advent! Gelukkige Komst! Szczęśliwego Nadejścia! Sretan Dolazak!