HOME Homily Archives - Year B First Sunday of Advent, Year B

First Sunday of Advent, Year B
Homily. Readings: Isaiah 63:16-17, 19, 64:1-7; Psalm 79; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37.


Purple Stole and Gospel
Readings: Isaiah 63:16-17, 19, 64:1-7; Psalm 79; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

The Lord is coming. Be on the watch! This is the leitmotif of Advent and in particular of this first Sunday. The first two readings of this liturgical year bring us face to face with a God who is Father and with the reality of our own sinfulness before him. We have wandered away from him (First Reading) but he is faithful and has sent his own Son to free us from our blame (Second Reading). We must be ever alert so that the coming of the Son does not find us unprepared (Gospel).

Advent spirituality. “We have come to know a threefold coming of the Lord" (St Bernard, Office of Readings, Wednesday of Week 1 of Advent). The Advent liturgy, like every sacramental reality, simultaneously evokes the past of salvation history, while promising its eschatological fulfillment and rendering both past and future present in the ‘today’ of salvation. To enter fully into Advent is to live personally the profound need of a Savior experienced by all from Adam to the Incarnation, to joyfully prepare for the mystical-sacramental re-presentation of the latter, and to look in permanent expectation to the Parousia or second coming. To the Lord’s coming (advent) corresponds our expectant anticipation.

It is not, of course, an indifferent waiting, but one full of longing. For like our Old Covenant forebears, we are more or less acutely aware that “we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean men… (and) our guilt carries us away like the wind” (First Reading). Unable as we are to comprehend the interplay of grace and human freedom, or the terrible mystery of humankind’s ability to refuse God’s invitation to love (CCC 309; 412), and forgetting that the most wonderful thing about God is that he is our Father, we are tempted to wish he had made us unfree. We would like to ask, “Why did you let us wander, Lord, from your ways?” “Why don’t you come, Lord?”, we want to know. His answer: “But I have come –and I will come again”.

Watchfulness: There is no mistaking the pressing nature of Jesus’ consequent warning: Watch! Do not be caught unawares. On his part this is an eminently positive admonition, for he shares the Father’s will that all be saved. The Christian who has listened to Jesus’ words lives in permanent expectation of his coming and will welcome him as the long-awaited Master and loved one (Matthew 25:1). Nevertheless we should not ignore the fact that failure on our part to attend to his urging can have consequences for which ‘dire’ is a weak qualifier. Decisive moments for obtaining a hundredfold in this life, and our eternal salvation, can present themselves at any instant. Indeed, special moments of grace punctuate each day.

In Mark’s Gospel it is not the master (Matthew) nor the servants (Luke) who are charged with watching, but the gatekeeper, whose task it is to open only to the shepherd of the flock while turning away thieves and brigands (John 10:1-2.8). The gatekeeper is first of all Peter and his successor, and with him every pastor; their timely interventions are not a burden, but a boon. Ultimately, however, each individual must be the gatekeeper of his own soul: Jesus instructs all his disciples to “be constantly on the watch”.

Catechesis: The first reading offers an excellent platform for a catechesis on God our Father and Creator (CCC 238-9; 280; 356-358…). It could also extend to a treatment of the basic scheme of salvation history: creation, sin, and salvation in Christ (CCC 1, 54, 55, 64…). Another possible topic would be the liturgical year (CCC 1068, 1092, 1103…)

Hope and renewal.
For the Christian everything begins with Christ’s coming, the whole passionate adventure is set in motion. Again. How fortunate we are, constantly given the opportunity to begin over again! To relive the richest, most meaning-laden moments of humankind’s and each one’s own personal history. This is the opportunity the liturgical re-presentation of the mysteries of Christ affords each one of us.

And how we need such an opportunity! The many elements in our culture that reflect so little of the Gospel, so much of the culture of death; the distressingly painful wounds and stains inflicted on the Church by some of her children, making her appear before the world as anything but the spotless Bride of Christ; the daily realization that that personal weakness still dogs me… all these can fill us with shame, or discouragement, or weariness.

But with Christ we can always begin again. We can make our own the anguished call of the chosen people: “Lord, rend the heavens and come down!” (First Reading). We can look in hope to the parousia, when God will be all in all, and Christ will present to his Father the Church in all her bridal purity and holiness. We too can await with the prophets, with Simeon and Anna, with Mary and Joseph, the imminent coming of the Desired of all the nations, the Christ-Child who is the bearer of all we lack and all we need, be it patience or purity, obedience or overcoming a deep resentment, trust or truthfulness, prayerfulness of getting ones priorities straight.

Always prepared. To be ‘on the watch’ is to be aware each day, through prayer and reflection, that the ‘today’ of salvation is now. It is to adopt every measure to live always in the grace of friendship with God, so that were the final call to present itself today, I would be ready to cross the threshold of eternity in peace and without fear. It is to always have one’s hands full of good works. It is to live in communion with the Lord. It is to place a guard at the doors of the soul – the senses  – so that nothing that might endanger the life of grace can enter there. It is to want and procure the same for all those I love, and see that no one around me is less ready for being in my company. All this with trust in the Lord who will strengthen us as we await that day.

This section proposes topics suggested by the Sunday Readings, for those who might wish to complete a catechesis on the fundamentals of the faith throughout the liturgical year: whether developing each theme in the Sunday homily, or at some other time in the week, or perhaps simply recommending to the faithful a reflective reading of the paragraphs referenced in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).