Is. 63:16b-17; 1Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37
There was a story about a certain woman who went to a priest for a confession. After she confessed all her sins, the priest gave her a penance but not the usual penance of praying 3 Our Fathers, 3 Hail Mary and 3 Glory Be. The penance given was, the priest told her to buy a white-feathered chicken in the market and when she go home she has to take each feather and throw it into the air. She did what the priest told her until she reached the church.
When she was in front of the priest, the priest told her to gather again all the feathers she had thrown into the air. The woman said: “But Father, I could not gather them anymore.” The priest answered: “Yes, that’s true. So it is like when you destroy the reputation of others, you could not get back what you have said against a person. The damage has been done, you have added salt to an injury.”
That is why a saying goes this way: “The tongue should be used to bless rather than to curse; to compliment rather than to criticize; to highlight good qualities rather than focus on bad qualities”.
Today, my dear friends, is the First Sunday of Advent. The word advent is coming from the Latin word, “Adventum”, meaning, “coming”, but who will come? Many of us would answer that it is the coming of the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. But Jesus had already born two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. This advent is not only the coming of Jesus during Christmas day but also his coming at the last day, we call it Parousia or His second coming by which He will no longer save us but judge us.
When we are expecting a very important person to come, a particular reality called waiting is very imminent. When we wait, we feel anxious, uneasy, impatient and unsure if that person will come. Victor Frankl in his book entitled, Man’s Search for Meaning tells a story of how he survived the atrocities of the Concentration Camp in Auschwitz. Frankl said that one of the worst suffering at Auschwitz was waiting: waiting for the war to end, waiting for an uncertain date of release and waiting for death to end the agony.
Waiting is one of the large realities of life. And there are so many waiting in life. There is waiting at table for food to be served. There is waiting for the night to fall. There is waiting for the sun to rise. There is waiting for graduation, payday, and publication of those who passed the exam. There is waiting for healing, for the pain to stop and many more.
In the gospel, this reality is also given emphasis by Jesus Himself when He comes again. He said, “Stay awake!….You do not know when the appointed time will come.” In other words, be prepared always and to stay awake while waiting for His coming at an unknown time.
As part of waiting, that motto of Boys Scout, “Be prepared!” can be also our slogan. When I was still in the elementary, as boys scout, we were trained to prepare ourselves for survival in emergency situations like getting lost in the jungle, or escaping from a burning building, or volunteering for rescue and relief operations during times of calamities.
Before we became priests, this motto “Be prepared!” was also unconsciously used in the seminary. As seminarians, we were formed rigidly to prepare ourselves for pastoral work in the future like parish administration, teaching, counseling, liturgy and others. Because I believe that there is no instant priest, or instant Christian. We are going to undergo a process by ourselves. There are things which cannot borrow at the last minute. Character, for example, is something we cannot buy or borrow like a dress for special occasions. We have to learn this by ourselves.
So, while waiting, let us prepare ourselves for His coming. How?
First, let us renew the way we speak, just like the story at the beginning of my homily.
Second, let us renew the way we act. A saying goes: “Action speaks louder than words”. Actions are very much important. Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical letter, said that today we don’t need good teachers, what we need are witnessing teachers.
Third, let us renew our attitude. We have so many attitudes that need to be renewed like boastful, faultfinding, shyness, misbehavior, moody, possessive and others.
Lastly, let us renew our deeds.
To end this, let us reflect on this: If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy. But, if a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient. If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident. If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle B