THE GREAT EXPECTATION: HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR C)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD
This story appealed to me and I wish to begin with it. Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families; their homes; their jobs; their involvement in the military service; where they had been on vacation.
Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all these in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.
One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days, weeks and months passed.
One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window.
The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled the deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you and give you hope for the future’.
In the first reading today Jeremiah sounded more like the man by the side of the window. Jeremiah seems to be looking through the window of the future and could see the better days that are coming when divine promises of liberation and blessings will dawn. But unlike the pictures of the blind man by the side of the window, Jeremiah’s foresight lies in the future that is attainable; a divinely ordained and realizable future.
Today begins a new year in the Church’s calendar and we could really say “happy new year” to ourselves. We have entered into the 3rd Year (C) of the Church’s calendar which is being ushered with the Advent period. The word Advent means “future coming”. In this wise we are anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ. Significantly, there are three senses we understand this coming:
- His coming more than two thousand years ago. (Which we commemorate).
- His immanent and continual coming into our lives.
- His glorious second coming at the end of time. (The parousia)
Life is generally filled with a lot of expectations. When we are born, we are expected to grow; as we grow we are expected to mature, as we mature we are expected to be successful in various areas. Expectations mark and make the world. People are expected to marry, women are expected to conceive, and pregnant women are even called expectant mothers. At a time we are even expected to die if we dare live so long. In Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, Pip’s life was driven by wonderful expectations which included but not restricted to being a gentleman in London and marrying Estella.
Today we are reflecting on the great expectation. Unlike Pip’s material / temporal expectations, we are looking forward to a spiritual / eternal expectation which in our context refers to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. In connection with the readings, Jeremiah tells us that it will be the fulfillment of God’s promises. The fulfillment of these promises will be at the due season and time and through the right person (Jesus Christ) and the right channel. God is a wonderful planner and His plans are tested ok! In the second reading (1 Thess.3:12-4:2) St. Paul advised that for us to enjoy the promises which Jeremiah outlined, we need to adopt love as a principle and holiness as a way of life. And in the gospel reading (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36) our Lord himself presented us with the drama of how his second coming will be like. After the frightening reactions of the heavenly bodies and other elements, the Son of Man will emerge. The warning is that we should be watchful so that we are not caught unprepared!
One of the worst things one could ever imagine is to be caught off guard in anything at all; especially when one could have managed the situation. The bewildering pictures of the sun, the moon and other phenomena that our Lord presented were not meant to scare us. They are more of reminders to us that even the things we see as built to last will crumble; but not our faith. That is why he went further to encourage us to stay awake (with hope), praying (with faith) having confidence before the Son of Man (with love) so as to survive all that is going to happen! This summarily is a pointer to the fact that the theological virtues of faith, hope and love are the basic elements we need during this season of Advent. Faith enables us to believe (without doubt) in the coming of the Lord. Hope enables us to trust in his promises relying on the grace of God not on our own strength; and love urges us to live good lives by pleasing God and our neighbours! It is on these that the Advent period germinates and takes root!
There is need for us to understand that the Advent season is a holy season. A period of staying awake, praying, and performing acts of charity. This is not the time to plan and execute evil. This is not the time to waste our lives running after things that have little or no values in our lives. Our lives should be reflective of the lives of those who are waiting for something they value more than any other thing. As we light the first candle of the Advent period let our lives be set afire with enduring expectation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ not in Israel but in our hearts!
I wish you an awesomely blessed Advent season!