November 27, 2022 – First Sunday of Advent
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112722.cfm)
Have you been so overwhelmed by your issues and enormous problems at the moment? Or by the tragedies and traumas in your life? Or are you simply so caught up with the demands of work, family life, studies and in reaching out your dreams that you seemed to be always running out of time; so engrossed with the expectations that you begin to stress out; feeling terribly anxious and pressured that you forget other important aspects of your life?
However, in realizing such situations we are in, we also begin longing and hoping for peace, reconciliation, healing and freedom. We have begun the first day of the new Liturgical Calendar in our Church today and we are being reminded to refocus our gaze, our longing and our hope to the Lord. Hence, those aspects of our life that would incline us to lose our awareness and sensitivity of the Lord’s presence are the very areas where we are invited to grow. So, allow me now to draw out God’s call for us on this First Sunday of Advent through the Scripture readings we have heard.
In the first reading from the Book of Isaiah, the prophet expressed wonderfully the longing of the people for the coming of the Lord. This book was written at the time when the people have suffered from being exiled in Babylon. While being captured and made into slaves, 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 joy.
Isaiah expressed this hope for the people which was meant to uplift the spirit of the people. This reminds us of the significance of the first candle that we have lighted on this first Sunday of Advent. That candle symbolizes hope. This hope is what the prophets of the Old Testament have told us. Thus, the candle is also called as the Candle of the Prophets.
This hope as told by the prophets is reechoed in our Psalm today, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” This is an expression of a longing to be in the presence of God. Yet, let us also not forget our human tendency to lose hope particularly when things become overwhelming for us. Because of so much pain and of the suffering we endure, we too might 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 had happened in our life. We could have fallen asleep because we have become so tired from waiting for the Lord, because our prayers remain unanswered, because we have already failed several times in spite of our efforts, or your partner or a family member remains problematic despite your prayers, or until now you are not yet healed from your illness which gives you suffering, or your loved one was taken away from you because of a sudden death. Because these are discouraging, we would feel the absence of God just as the Hebrews felt when they were exiled. We could declare that we have lost our faith, because God seemed not to care for us. But, this is not true because God’s remains faithful to us and remains ever present in us. We are not just sensitive!
Likewise, aside from the trials in life, there is another reason in losing our focus of God’s presence in life. This is basically the business of our usual days, of the demands of our everyday life, of our work, family responsibilities, studies, and everyday endeavors. This is the tendency of many who are occupied all day with many things. Indeed, the demands of everyday life are merciless. There is always more to do and not enough time to do it.
This is how Jesus reminds us today in the Gospel, “to stay awake.” This is the Lord’s invitation for us to grow in our longing and hoping for God’s presence in our everyday life. Jesus wants us to be always attentive of his presence and attentive to his everyday coming in our daily life – at home, at work or at school.
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 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 closeness with God.
And when our routinary days are filled with demands, may we not tend to forget the Lord and lose our gaze on him and become indifferent of his presence. Thus, in the midst of our busy routinary life, let our awareness of God’s presence be intertwined in our work, in our studies, and in our activities. Therefore, it is still possible to become awake and aware of the movements of God and his invitations for us while we are working or doing something as long as we allow the Lord to be with us wherever we are. Let those moments of our awareness of God and encounters with God bring us to peace, to reconciliation, to healing, to freedom and to the fullness of life. Kabay pa.
 John Shea, On Earth as it is in Heaven (Asia Trading Corporation: India, 2010), 28.