Cycle B 1st Sunday of Advent

Is. 63:16b-17; 64:1, 64:3-8; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mk. 13:33-7

Today, as we begin the season of Advent, we are reminded by the words of our Jesus to "Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come." These words from the Gospel of Mark (13:31-37) echo a profound truth about our existence—life is uncertain, and the future is unknown. In this passage, Jesus uses the imagery of a man going on a journey, leaving his servants with specific tasks and urging the doorkeeper to be watchful. The underlying message is clear: Stay awake, be prepared, for the master may return at any moment.

Today's First Reading shines in the grace of God. It echoes Divine love that is forgiving towards those who live righteously. As we heard, God gladly meets those who do right, those who remember Him and His Holy ways. And St. Paul affirms during the reading of the First Letter to the Corinthians, the grace of God flows abundantly towards those who walk their living faith in Jesus Christ. 

But for those who turn their hearts away from the Lord, God treats them as children, disciplining them as a loving Father. [Heb. 12:8] Allowing all to enjoy their free will, the Lord permits them for some time to stray away from His ways, hardening their hearts so that they do not fear Him.

As we reflect on these words, let us consider the many unforeseen and imminent dangers that have claimed lives throughout history. From natural disasters to unexpected tragedies, the fragility of life is evident. The Scriptures are replete with stories that emphasize the need for vigilance and readiness. In the book of Genesis, we find the story of Noah and the flood—a reminder that even in times of seeming normalcy, the unexpected can alter the course of our lives.

In recent times, the unexpected and unforeseen danger of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and the sudden disruptions that can alter the course of existence. On December 26, 2004, a massive undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra triggered a series of devastating tsunamis that affected multiple countries surrounding the Indian Ocean.

The tsunami waves, reaching unprecedented heights, struck coastal areas without warning, causing widespread destruction and claiming the lives of over 230,000 people in 14 countries. Entire communities were swept away, and countless individuals faced unimaginable loss and suffering.

This tragic event serves as a contemporary example of the unforeseen and imminent dangers that can dramatically change the trajectory of our lives. It underscores the importance of being prepared, in cultivating a mindset of readiness for life's uncertainties. 

The floods in Kerala, often referred to as the Kerala Floods of 2018, were particularly destructive, claiming hundreds of lives and displacing millions of residents. Entire communities were submerged, and the infrastructure, including roads and bridges, was severely damaged. The Kerala floods serve as a contemporary reminder of the biblical and universal theme of staying vigilant and prepared for unforeseen challenges that can impact the course of our lives. 

In traditions and literature too there are many stories and teachings to remind to be prepared in life. Bible put forward many examples for this. God instructed Noah to build an ark and gather pairs of animals to survive the coming flood. Noah's obedience and preparation ensured the survival of his family and various species. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams about seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. In preparation, Joseph stored grain during the years of abundance to sustain Egypt and neighboring regions during the famine. God instructed the Israelites to prepare for their journey out of Egypt by sacrificing a lamb and marking their doorposts with its blood. This act of preparation protected them from the final plague and symbolized their freedom. Jesus told this parable of Ten Virgins to emphasize the importance of being prepared for His return. Ten virgins were waiting for the bridegroom; five were wise and had extra oil for their lamps, while the other five were foolish and unprepared.

In ancient Greece, in the city-state of Athens, there lived a wise philosopher named Demetrius. Known for his insightful teachings, Demetrius often used parables to impart wisdom to his students and fellow citizens.

One day, as Demetrius strolled through the bustling marketplace, he noticed a group of young men engrossed in their discussions but seemingly unaware of their surroundings. Sensing an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson, Demetrius approached them.

"Greetings, young scholars," he said with a warm smile. "I have a tale to share with you—one that speaks to the importance of being prepared for life's uncertainties."

He began telling the story of two friends, Leonidas and Achilles, who were skilled archers in the kingdom of Athens. The king, impressed by their talents, summoned them to his court and presented them with a unique challenge.

"You will each be given one arrow," declared the king. "Take aim at the distant target, and if you hit the bullseye, you shall be rewarded handsomely."

Leonidas, a diligent and foresighted archer, took a moment to inspect his arrow meticulously. He ensured it was straight, the feathers were secure, and the tip was sharp. With focused intent, he aimed and released the arrow, hitting the bullseye with remarkable precision.

Achilles, however, was overconfident. Believing in his natural skill, he paid little attention to his arrow. Without a second thought, he quickly aimed and released it. Unfortunately, the arrow veered off course, missing the target entirely.

The king, disappointed in Achilles, turned to Demetrius and asked, "What lesson do you draw from this, wise philosopher?"

Demetrius replied, "Your Majesty, the lesson is clear. Leonidas, through his careful preparation, ensured success. Achilles, relying solely on his natural talent, faced failure. It is a reminder that preparation is the key to success, even for those blessed with innate abilities."

The king nodded in agreement, and Demetrius continued to expound on the importance of being prepared in all aspects of life. The tale of Leonidas and Achilles became a timeless lesson in Athens, echoing through the centuries as a reminder that, whether in archery or in life, foresight and preparation pave the way to triumph.

As we embark on this Advent journey, let us commit ourselves to a vigilant and prepared way of living. Let our hearts be open to God's guidance and let us actively engage in the work of love and compassion. Advent is a season of giving and goodwill. Incorporate acts of kindness into your daily routine, whether it's volunteering, donating to charity, or reaching out to someone in need. Use this time to spread joy and love. By doing so, we honor the words of Jesus when He says, "And what I say to you, I say to all: Keep awake."