1st Sunday of Advent- Year B ~ December 3, 2023
OUR HOPE KEEPS US AWAKE
Once, there was a farmer who was tired of various natural factors ruling the quality of his crop. So, one day he called God and said, “I am tired of all the natural nonsense happening. Obviously, you are not a farmer. You don’t know what it means to farm so why don’t you leave nature in my hands? I am a farmer. I know when it should rain, I know when there should be sunlight, everything is happening at the wrong times. You leave it to me.”
Whether you have a good deal or a bad deal, whatever the situation is, it’s very useful – you use that for your wellbeing.
God said, “Okay, nature is in your hands.” Then the farmer planned his crop. He calls out “Rain!” And it rains. He pokes the land with his finger and sees, “Okay it’s soaked up to six inches,” “Stop!” Then he ploughed his field and planted maize seeds and waited for two days, “Rain!” then “Sunlight!” One day he was working in the field, “Cloud!” Everything just happened the way he wanted, and a beautiful maize crop came. He was overjoyed.
When it was time for the harvest, he wanted to see that no birds come. He was surprised about that because when he said, “No birds!” – no birds came. He went down to his fields to harvest the maize but when he looked at the crop, there was no grain on the plants. Then he thought “What the hell is this? What did I do wrong?” He couldn’t figure it out because he had managed everything – rain, water, and sunshine – properly.
He went back to God and asked, “I did everything right but there is no grain. Did you sabotage my crop?” God said, “I have been watching; you were in-charge, so I didn’t want to interfere. The rain was great, the sunshine was great, everything was fine, but you stopped all the winds. I used to always send fierce winds which would threaten your crop but because the plants felt pushed and threatened, they put their roots deeper into the earth and so grain happened. Now you have a great maize crop but no maize.”
As the maize crop used the winds to strengthen themselves, various situations in your life can either be used to make yourself stronger and better or you can sit and cry. This is the choice you have. Everything, it does not matter what happens, even the most horrific event in your life can also be used for your growth and your wellbeing. The small events of your life – your business, your marriage, your children – all these things are just a stepping stone. All these things move around the element of hope and hope for the good to come. St. James says in his letter that “never say we will do but say God willing we will do”.
This week we begin our Advent season to prepare ourselves to celebrate the miraculous birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Advent is the time we are given to welcome the Lord who comes to encounter us, and to verify our longing for God, to look forward and prepare ourselves for Christ’s return. He will return to us in the celebration of Christmas, when we will remember his historic coming in the humility of the human condition; but he enters our heart each time we are willing to receive him; and he will come again at the end of time to “judge the living and the dead”. Therefore, we must always be vigilant and await the Lord with the hope of encountering him.
Advent season has two parts: First part (which is from 1st Sunday of Advent to December 16) addresses the importance of the second coming of Jesus. All the readings are focused on the preparation to welcome Jesus with hope, in our midst with various signs and symbols though sometimes we don’t like to hear about the end time because it seems very scary. However, Jesus always reminds us He is with us as he carries his name Emmanuel.
Second part of Advent (which is from December 17 to 24) emphasis on the importance of Jesus’s first coming through the prophecies we find in the Bible. Moreover, we are also reminded that our Salvation is at hand, and we need to rejoice in the Lord who was, who is and who is to come.
Today as we light our first Advent candle, we reflect on the theme “Hope” which keeps reminding not to lose our hearts but trust in the Lord. The two words Hope & awake are very crucial as we experience violence, wars, and storms of every kind. Everyone is waiting with hope to see an end to war between Russia & Ukraine and Israel and Hamas. What should we do in this situation? The Holy Father encourages everyone with these words: “The person who takes heed is the one who, amid the worldly din, does not let himself be overwhelmed by distraction or superficiality, but lives in a full and conscious way, with concern first and foremost for others. With this manner we become aware of the tears and the needs of neighbours, and we can also understand their human and spiritual strengths and qualities. The heedful person then also turns toward the world, seeking to counter the indifference and cruelty in it, and taking delight in its beautiful treasures which also exist and are to be safeguarded. It is a matter of having an understanding gaze to recognize both the misery and poverty of individuals and of society, and to recognize the richness hidden in little everyday things, precisely there where the Lord has placed us”.
This war between Israel and Hamas should not let us down from the Love of Jesus as St. Paul says, “who can separate us from the Love of Jesus”. In our discipleship we are asked to hope in the Lord because our hope does not die. The one who accepts the invitation to keep watch, that is, not to let himself be overpowered by the listlessness of discouragement, by the lack of hope, by disappointment; and at the same time, it wards off the allure of the many vanities with which the world is brimming and for which, now and then, time and personal and familial peace is sacrificed. It is the painful experience of the people of Israel, recounted by the Prophet Isaiah: God seemed to have let his people err from his ways (63:17), but this was a result of the unfaithfulness of the people themselves (64:4b). We too often find ourselves in this situation of unfaithfulness to the call of the Lord: He shows us the good path, the way of faith, the way of love, but we seek our happiness elsewhere. The Psalmist says “but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (147:11). King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes says “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity” but on the other hand St. Peter reminds even everything is vanity but “Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1Peter 1:3).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem once said “We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom. In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.
At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. The Saviour will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgment he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.
His first coming was to fulfill his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity. Malachi the prophet speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming. Again, he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.
These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Saviour has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await. That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.
Through this Sunday’s Gospel our Lord is calling out to everyone “Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come”. These words are not to scare us but to prepare us for his Second Coming. In today’s busy & hectic world we have been lost. We do not know our identity who we are as human and as Christians. We are led by the world, which is in the state of denial of everything, realities of life and of faith. We are just left to follow what is happening in the world with no option and very specially during this pandemic we are left with hopelessness. However, St. Peter strengthens us and encourages us to fight against the evil “The Devil is looking like a roaring lion to eat someone, be strong in faith and stand against him”.
Today as we begin our Advent season, let us trust and believe in the Lord who is our living hope very especially during this pandemic. We may be some slow to understand but once we open our hearts and minds, then hope will bring new things in our lives just like the following story.
Once there was a frog and toad. One day Frog ran up the path to Toad’s house. He knocked on the front door. There was no answer. “Toad, Toad,” shouted Frog, “wake up. It is spring!” “Blah,” said a voice from inside the house. “Toad, Toad,” cried Frog “The sun is shining! The snow is melting. Wake up!” “I am not here,” said the voice. Frog walked into the house. It was dark. All the shutters were closed. “Toad where are you?” called Frog. “Go away,” said the voice from a corner of the room. Toad was lying in bed. He had pulled all the covers over his head. Frog pushed Toad out of bed. He pushed him out of the house and onto the front porch. Toad blinked in the bright sun. “Help!” said Toad. “I cannot see anything.” “Don’t be silly,” said Frog. “What you see is the clear warm light of April. And it means that we can begin a whole new year together, Toad. Think of it,” said Frog. “We will skip through the meadows and run through the woods and swim in the river.
In the evenings we will sit right here on this front porch and count the stars.” “You can count them, Frog,” said Toad. “I will be too tired. I am going back to bed.” Toad went back into the house. He got into the bed and pulled the covers over his head again. “But, Toad,” cried Frog, “you will miss all the fun!” “Listen, Frog,” said Toad. “How long have I been asleep?” “You have been asleep since November,” said Frog. “Well then,” said Toad, “a little more sleep will not hurt me. Come back again and wake me up at about half past May. Good night, Frog.” “But, Toad,” said Frog, “I will be lonely until then.” Toad did not answer. He had fallen asleep.
Frog looked at Toad’s calendar. The November page was still on top. Frog tore off the November page. He tore off the December page. And the January page, the February page, and the March page. He came to the April page. Frog tore off the April page too. Then Frog ran back to Toad’s bed. “Toad, Toad, wake up. It is May now.” “What?” said Toad. “Can it be May so soon?” “Yes,” said Frog. “Look at your calendar.” Toad looked at the calendar. The May page was on top. “Why, it is May!” said Toad as he climbed out of bed. Then he and Frog ran outside to see how the world was looking in the spring and there was greenery and brightness of the day.
Let us ask the Lord to help us to prepare ourselves during this time of war and uncertainties with prayer and hope to welcome Jesus our Saviour who became flesh and dwelt among us. Come Lord Jesus come and fill our hearts with your love and peace.
How do we see our hope to keep us awake?
Other Sermons In This Series
June 02, 2023
March 04, 2022
February 28, 2022