Our life journey is punctuated by seasons. Our conception, our birth, our childhood, adulthood, our old age and eventually our return to our gracious and loving heavenly Father; without discounting all the events that come between these seasons of our life. The gains and loses! For those of us here in the southern hemisphere and those in the northern hemisphere, we are no strangers to yearly cycles of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Depending on what we do in life, our health or so, we look forward to different seasons with different anticipations. Some of us love summer, some love spring, some are in awe of winter, others love autumn while there are others who are not fussed by these seasons.
Last week, we concluded Church’s liturgical year cycle A and this weekend, we begin a new Church liturgical year, cycle B. As is always the case when we come to an end of a particular segment of our life’s journey, we take time to do a ‘postmortem’ of the gone segment with a view of taking the lessons into the new segment of our life’s journey. For this past year 2020, there have been and there remain lots of lessons that will shape this new year. The gospel on this First Sunday Advent sets us on such path; stay awake! Whilst there is so much that keep us awake in our life, this gospel makes an urgent call on each of us to get to know what exactly we must stay awake for; the arrival of the master, Jesus Christ.
First, the gospel talks of the master having left His servants in charge and gone abroad. Who are the servants? They are all baptised members of the Church community and they are servants as far as they participate in the various ministries of the Church in proclamation of the Gospel. These ministries must have the sole purpose of building up the kingdom of God. A kingdom of love, justice and peace. We ought to evaluate our ministries in light of this gospel and see if we are actually contributing to the establishment and sustenance of God’s kingdom. That is to say: are we welcoming, forgiving, loving and compassionate?
There are also doorkeepers who must stay awake. These are the leaders of God’s Church; bishops, priests and superiors. They are called to lead in the footsteps of the Good Shepard. In so doing, they maintain tranquility and fidelity to the Gospel. Their own manner of life must not be scandalous to the people of God and so provide good example for others to follow with confidence. Through word and sacraments, doorkeepers administer charity that stems from the Sacred Heart of our Lord.
Figuratively, saint Mark reminds us that the master might arrive at any time that we do not know; evening, midnight, cockcrow or at dawn. It is interesting that the author of this gospel does not talk of daytime when there is light. He/she talks only of the dark hours – nighttime. The writer has conveniently not used daytime because as Christians, we are children of light. Day and night, we should be engaged in activities that give glory to God, striving to shun as far as we can, all the evils of the dark. We cannot even for a moment let the dark ‘hours’ of our lives steer us away from focusing on the power of Jesus. As saint Paul assures us, nothing can and I think should never separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
As we begin this new Church year, we abandon ourselves into the able hands of our maker, our creator, God the Father. It is Him the prophet Isaiah calls the potter and we, the clay. We let Him mold us into the people He wills us to be and set us on the path/s we should walk along our journey of faith. Ours is to remain awake to His call through His word and sacraments and so respond generously with our time, talent and loving witness. As a people awake to His call, we commit ourselves to prayer, giving comfort to the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, elderly, orphaned and all those left on the margins of life.
We take this time to appreciate a sense of new beginning or rather a kind of a fresh start even if only cautiously, given the disruptions we have experienced this passing year due to COVID 19. May our waiting and preparations for the birth of our Lord renew our hope for better days and things to come. He alone Has the power to conquer all adversity that threatens our life and all that put our faith to the test. May the bonds of mutual support that have stemmed from our collective fight against this virus bind us even closer in our faith and love for each other. Yes, it’s in order to say: Happy New Year and God bless us all!
Fr Cyprian Shikokoti, Parish Priest