December 1, 2019 – 1st Sunday of Advent
(Click here for the readings – http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120119.cfm)
According to scholars, about 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, we, humans began domesticating dogs. We have lived with dogs side by side for many years. As a result, humans and dogs have developed relationship which include emotional connection. Because of the familiarity of the dogs to human, dogs have developed ways of recognizing emotional reactions from human. But more than, dogs also as well as humans have established an intimate emotional connection with each other.
That’s why, if I may ask you, who among you have dogs at home? Have you also noticed your dog when you are about to come home? When dogs are left alone, it creates anxiety to them because they are in need of mental stimulation and social interaction (from https://www.rover.com/blog/dogs-get-lonely-keep-home-alone-dog-happy/). Consequently, dogs long for their humans to come home and keep them company.
What is more interesting is the behavior among dogs when they can sense that you are coming. This is how dogs show their alertness to welcome their humans. Thus, even from a distance they can sense your coming and when they begin to hear the familiar noise of your car engine or even of your footsteps, they begin to wiggle their tails. They patiently wait for you and when they see you they make terrible sounds but for them it’s their expression of joy. That joy it expressed in excitement by jumping at you, licking you and going around your feet.
This behavior among our dogs reminds me of this Season of Advent. Advent, which is understood as the coming of the Savior, is a season of joyful waiting. And to joyfully wait, our dogs have something to teach us. To joyfully wait involves longing and attentiveness or alertness. Indeed, dogs long for our presence and very attentive by sensing our coming and even smelling our scent.
The readings today wonderfully tell us of that longing for the coming of our Lord. In the first reading from the Book of Isaiah, the prophet expressed that longing when everything will fall into its place. This was written at the times when the people suffered from being exiled in Babylon. They longed for the time when all of them will come home and will be reunited. They longed for that time of peace where there will be no more wars but abundance and harmony.
Isaiah expressed this hope for the people and this is meant to uplift the spirit of the people. Indeed, on this first Sunday of Advent, we have lighted the first candle that symbolizes hope. This hope is what the prophets have told us. Thus, the candle is also called as the candle of the prophets.
This is what the Psalm proclaims to us, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” This is an expression of a longing to be with God. However, let us also not forget of our human tendency to lose hope especially when things are too difficult for us. We too might also feel of losing hope and forgetting our desire for God.
This is what St Paul in his letter to the Romans reminds us. Paul tells to be awake from sleep because of the discouraging and disappointing events that have happened in our life. Thus, we may fall asleep because we have become so tired from waiting for the Lord, because our prayers remain unanswered, because you have failed several times in your exams despite your reviews and prayers, or your partner or a family member is still problematic despite the prayer intentions you have offered, or until now you are not yet healed from your illness which gives you suffering despite the many “pamisa” you have made, or your loved one was taken away from you because of a sudden death even though you have been a good catholic.
Because these are discouraging, and so we feel that our faith is weakened. This happens when we lose our desire for God and tend to focus more on our personal wants, personal assurance of comfort and security. That is why, Paul also tells us to let go of these works of darkness and rather put on the armor of light.
Putting the armor of light is making ourselves more familiar of God, of his presence in us. This is what Jesus reminds us today “to stay awake and be alert at all times.”
Jesus wants us to be always attentive to his presence and attentive to his everyday coming in our daily life – at home, at work or at school. Jesus wants us to long for him and to be more attentive to his presence. Thus, this is an invitation to have a heightened awareness of God’s presence in our life and in the lives of others.
Hence, as St. Paul teaches us in “conducting ourselves properly,” we are called to be more selfless by expressing our love for one another. When we become less self-centered, then, we also begin to recognize others and to recognize God. By showing our concern for one another, we also become more aware of God. When we begin to build intimate connections with our family and friends by opening up ourselves to them, then, we also begin to open up ourselves for God. Our intimacy with others brings us, actually, into the intimacy we have with God. In other words, our closeness with those who are around us brings us into our closeness with God.
Indeed, the emotional connection between dogs and humans, reminds us of our intimate connection with God. We are a people who longs to see the face of God, who longs to feel His loving and comforting presence in our life. Yet, let us also realize that though we long for God, God longs for us all the more. God is more excited to meet us. Jesus would surely come and meet us where we are at this very moment.
This is the invitation for us this Sunday – to joyfully wait for God’s everyday coming in our life by being attentive and alert of His presence. In this way, hope becomes more alive in us because we know and we believe that Jesus is truly with you and with me.
Remember, God reveals his abiding and loving presence to us in any moment of our life. Let us keep our hearts to always desire God through our constant and intimate communication through our personal prayer and through this Eucharist.
Let us hope that as we are able to meet the Lord in our ordinary life may it become a moment of joy for us and a life-changing experience for us and for our community. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR