Today Catholic Christians celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new Church Year. If you have an Advent wreath at home, you should light one purple candle.
This new Church year uses Cycle B readings for Sunday liturgies. That means that, usually, most of the Gospel selections will from the Book of Mark. Most Bible scholars believe that Mark’s Gospel is the oldest of the gospels, and one from which Matthew and Luke took many of their stories, along with a book simply called “Q.”
Most Bible scholars reject the idea that there was actually one author of this gospel. Rather, they believe the Book of Mark was a collection of ideas, stories, and sayings of Jesus that an anonymous person put in a book format.
For us, it does not matter if we know the name of the author of the Gospel of Mark. What is important for us is to glean the important messages from the book and put them into practice in our lives.
The theme of Advent is joyful expectation. What we are waiting for is the coming of Jesus at Christmas and at the end of time.
The First Sunday of Advent Gospel message focuses on waiting for Jesus at the end of time (Mark 13: 33-37). To get this message across, Jesus talks about the end times by saying it is like a man who goes on a journey and places his servants in charge. Each worker has some job to do, and the man orders his gatekeeper to be on watch. In this illustration, Jesus points out that none of the servants know when the master will return, for it could be in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrow, or in the morning. Therefore, Jesus ends his illustration by saying, “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
Today, I offer another story that challenges to keep watch, for we never know when the end times will come for us.
At the end of the 1900s, as the world was ready to begin the year 2000, a pastor received a survey in the mail from the local electric company. It wanted to know how prepared his parish was for what people were calling “Y2K” or “Year 2000.” Specifically, the electric company was inquiring what would happen if the Internet would crash if it did not recognize a year that began with the number “2” instead of the number “1.”
The pastor reflected on that. And like most modern workers, he knew that whenever the Internet was down at the office, most of the workers were lost, for we have created a world where we rely on the Internet for so much of our work.
However, he wrote to the company telling them that though it would certainly cause many office operations to come to a halt, the parish would still be able to perform its basic functions such as celebrating the sacraments, conducting Bible studies, teaching the Faith, performing works of charity, and the like.
The more he thought about this survey, the pastor got to imagining what it would be like if God sent a survey asking us to see how ready we are for the end of our lives. So, the pastor made up a survey based on Jesus’ commandments for us, for Jesus told us these are commandments on which we shall be judged.
- How have I fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty?
- How have I welcomed the stranger into my country, parish, and home?
- How have I helped to shelter the homeless and clothe the naked?
- How have I instructed those who need education?
- How have I forgiven my enemies and prayed for those who hurt me?
- How have I given money to those who have asked me for some?
- How have I worked to reduce violence in my community and world?
- How have I cared for the sick and visited those in prison?
- How have I showed that that my real treasure is in heaven, not on Earth?
- How have I fought against poverty, hunger, and inequality in the world?
- How have I treated all people as my brothers and sisters?
- How do I show love toward myself as a child of a God who is crazy about me?
- How do I share others’ sorrow, knowing that by listening, I am lightening the load they carry?
- How do I bring joy and laughter into the world?
- How do I strive to build up the Kingdom of God here on Earth?
- How do I show that heaven is my ultimate goal in life?
This is an amazing survey, for it asks us to do a self-examination not based on Jewish commandments, but on the teachings of Jesus himself. These commandments are very clear, but they are not always easy.
As we begin Advent, we should take some time to reflect on why we are in this world. Why did God create us? What are we supposed to do? He created us, of course, because he loves us, and what we are supposed to do is to build up the Kingdom of God her on Earth and be happy with him forever in heaven. We have Jesus’ instructions, so now let’s use Advent to see how we’re putting the instructions into action.
And that is the good news I have for you on this First Sunday of Advent, 2017.
Story source: Based on Fr. Peter Daly, “Second Coming Compliant—Readiness Survey
(adapted),” in Brian Cavanaugh (Ed.), Sower’s Seeds That Nurture Family Values: Sixth Planting, New York: Paulist Press, 2000, pp. 67-69.