“COME LORD JESUS, THE LIGHT IS DYING, THE NIGHT KEEPS CRYING…”
First Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17,64:1,3-8
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 79(80):2-3,15-16,18-19
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Gospel Reading: Mark 13:33-37
Just as the Babylonian exile was one of the most devastating events ever recorded in the Jewish history; in Nigeria, the Civil War (July 6, 1967 – January 15, 1970) could be said to be the most devastating event in the Nation’s history, leaving more than a million deaths as a result of its brutality. It was a scar in the nation’s history, a bitter and a life-defining event, leaving so many displaced without homes and properties. It was a phenomenon that left the citizens to restart an existence from the very scratch, especially on the part of the Igbos over all that was lost. Understanding this unpleasant event in Nigeria in the light of the suffering, hardship and brokenness felt, could help shed light on the sentiments of the Jews over their post-exile predicaments, and the imploration of God’s intervention in their lives, as reflected in today’s first reading. Little wonder, the Advent cry: “Christ come quickly, there’s danger at the door. Poverty a plenty, hearts gone wild with war. There’s hunger in the city and famine on the plain. Come, Lord Jesus, the light is dying, the night keeps crying: come, Lord Jesus…” written by Medical Mission Sister Miriam Therese Winter (b. 1938) greatly summarizes this Sunday’s message. It is a song imploring the intervention of God in a stark and devastating human history.
The first reading, taken from the third book of Isaiah (Trito-Isaiah), narrates the experiences of the Jews after their return from the Babylonian exile. Recall that while they were taken into exile, Judah was completely razed and devastated by the Babylonians, the temple’s treasuries and everything in it was looted away and destroyed. So, having returned home, they had to start life all over from the scratch; they had to rebuild their destroyed homes, temple, city and restore their identity and dignity once again. This was a very difficult restart; characterized by a life of sorrow, disgrace, sicknesses, hardships, etc. Thus, in the first reading, we could see sentiments of guilt and outrage at God, alternating with praise of God, humility, anguish and hope. Isaiah expressed the hope of God’s intervention in their present predicament: “Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down! – at your Presence the mountains would melt” Needless to say, in their case, there was “danger at the door,” “poverty a plenty, hearts gone wild with war; hunger in the city and famine on the plain…” – a situation where the light was dying and the night kept crying, asking God to come into their midst. Therefore, the prophet hoped that if God would come into their midst, the people could be faithful to Him. Acknowledging the fact that the people were unfaithful, Isaiah asked for God’s forgiveness and acceptance: “You, O Lord, are our Father; we are the clay and You are the potter: we are all the work of Your hands.” This prayer was answered when the Son of God became man in the Incarnation – the first Advent.
Having fulfilled His first coming, Jesus goes on to urge his disciples (and us) in the gospel reading to ‘Be on guard, and stay awake,’ because we do not know the time he would return (Parousia). This comes to remind us of the twofold meaning of Advent (‘arrival’ or ‘coming’) which focuses on the preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ in His First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in His Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2000-year-old event in history. Thus, in the gospel reading, Mark reminded the Christian community of Jesus’ injunction to be alert and awake for the Parousia, recalling Jesus’ parable about the gate-keeper. Scripture scholars sometimes refer to this part of Mark’s Gospel as the “little apocalypse” because these verses speak of the striking cosmic signs that will signal Christ’s coming as noted in the previous verses (vv. 24-27), and Christ’s injunction to be watchful and attentive (vv. 28-31). Put differently, Christ coming would be preceded by the eschatological events narrated in those verses. Hence, there is a need for Christian alertness; that is, our whole life should be a preparation to meet the master. We Christians must base this constant watch not on fear but on hope in God’s promise of eternal life.
Filled with the strong anticipation of Christ’s second coming, Paul in the second reading uses the phrase “the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ” as another way to speak about Jesus ’Parousia – His Second Advent at the end of the world. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they were not ready to face the Day of the Lord because they were misusing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. After describing the special gifts of the Holy Spirit they had received, Paul reminded the Corinthians that they were using their gifts in the wrong way; that is, they had been using their gifts to destroy the community instead of building it up. What should have been an asset, had become a detriment. What is the purpose of God’s gifts? According to Paul, it is to make the testimony of Christ firm in believers. In this text, there is an implicit appeal to surveillance. The Christian must always be vigilant and prepared to welcome the God who comes to meet them and express their love to Him through his gifts. Also, Christians must always be vigilant so that God’s gifts are not distorted and used to selfish ends.
Dear friends in Christ, throughout this ‘dark period’ of our time, when the ‘light is dying’ with ‘danger at the door’ – pandemic, sicknesses, war and violence, hunger and famine, while we sing like today’s Psalmist: “Lord of hosts, bring us back, let your face shine on us and we shall be saved”; we are called to stay awake and stand prepared to welcome Christ’s Second Advent, crying out: “Come Lord Jesus!” (Maranatha!)
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?