By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu cssp
Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent - Epistle
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Waiting for the Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Isaiah 63:16-17; 63:1, 3-6 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 Mark 13:31-37

Before performing a baptism, the priest approaches the young father and said solemnly, "Baptism is a serious step. Are you prepared for it?"
"I think so," the man replied. "My wife has made appetizers and we have a caterer coming to provide plenty of cookies and cakes for all of our guests."
"I don't mean that," the priest responded. "I mean, are you prepared spiritually?"
"Oh, sure," came the reply. "I've got a keg of beer and a case of whiskey."
We may laugh at the young man, but the way many of us today prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas is not much different from the way the man prepared for baptism.

The season of Advent is a time for Christians to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Actually we remember three of comings of the Lord. First, we celebrate something that happened in the past, namely, the birth of the Messiah into the world which took place more than 2000 years ago. Secondly, we prepare for something that will happen in the future, namely, the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. And thirdly, we celebrate something that happens in the present, namely, the many moments of grace which are occasions for the Lord to come into the lives of Christians, into our souls as individual believers and in our midst as the community of the people of God.

Unfortunately, our preparation for Christmas is often a very material affair. For too many of us, Advent is the ultimate shopping season. We shop for gifts, for toys, for special food and drinks. Advent has become a time for overly material concerns, as we make sure we are not lacking in any gift item or toy, or food or drink for the celebration of Christmas. How sharply our attitude contrasts with that of the early Christians to whom Paul writes in the 2nd reading, "so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:7).

While we hurry to stack up on material gifts, Paul advises his congregation to stack up on spiritual gifts. Later on in the same epistle (1 Corinthians 12), Paul enumerates the spiritual gifts, which include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, workings of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. He, however, advises them to positively cultivate the higher gifts or faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 12:31). How are we stacking up on the gifts of faith, hope and love? At the coming of the Lord, it is the gifts of faith, hope and love that matter before any other. Giving and receiving material gifts is definitely important, but this should be a token of true love and not a casual act of civility or a show of affluence.

In the same vein, Paul gives thanks to God that the Christians of Corinth have been enriched in every way in Christ. When we hear that today, the first thing that comes to our minds is material wealth. But that is not what Paul has in mind. What Paul has in mind is that the Corinthians have been enriched in their knowledge and eloquence in bearing witness to Christ: "for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind - just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you" (1 Corinthians 1:5-6).

As today we enter the season of Advent and countdown to Christmas, the Church reminds us that the celebration of Christmas is essentially a spiritual affair. Let us not forget this as we run about in the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and preparation, "so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:8).

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