First Sunday of Advent - Year B
The term advent is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year and commences with the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. Waiting is the key word during the season of advent. Experience teaches us that we have to wait patiently for almost everything that happens to us. We have to wait to be born, to grow up, to go to school, to graduate, to get a job, to marry, to retire. We have to wait at airports, railway stations, bus stands. We have to wait to go for holidays and tours. People in prison have to wait to be released; people who have committed a crime to be punished, people who have been unjustly punished to be freed, and so many other waitings are there to be explored.
The parable of the doorkeeper calls our attention to vigilance. A man going on a journey entrusts his house to his servants and commands the doorkeeper to keep watch since the master’s arrival time is not known. It can be in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock-crow, or in the morning. According to Jewish reckoning of time, the first watch begins around 6.00 P.M., the second around 9.00, the third around midnight, and the fourth around 3.00 A.M. In ancient times arrival at night was unusual, though not unprecedented (cf. Lk 11:5), since ancient people were reluctant to travel after dark because of brigands and other highway dangers. But the nighttime return of the master also has a theological dimension, based on the common Jewish notion that this age is like night and the age to come like day. Jesus, then, will come like a thief in the night, and in his coming the darkness will turn to light, bringing joy to those who are “children of the day” (cf. 1 Thess 5:5). This parable is an eye opener for us as we begin the new liturgical year. We can never let ourselves to fall into sleep or slumber which are symptoms of losing sight of our goal which is union with Christ our Lord. Let the cry of prophet Isaiah linger on our lips as we prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus, “O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down” (Isa 64:1).
Nikos Kazantzakis, famous Greek philosopher author of novels like The Last Temptation of Christ and God’s Pauper: St Francis of Assisi tells a very fascinating anecdote that he himself witnessed. He recalls that one morning he discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. Nick waited a while, but as it was appearing to be too long he was getting impatient. He bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. He warmed it as quickly as he could, and the miracle began to happen before his eyes, faster than life. The case opened; the butterfly started slowly crawling out. And he says he shall never forget his horror when he saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole brambling body to unfold the wings. Bending over it, he tried to help it with his breath, but in vain. It needs to be hatched out patiently, and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. His breath had forced the butterfly to appear all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of his hand. Nick says, “That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature.” The lesson we can learn from this anecdote is that we should neither hurry, nor be impatient, but we should allow nature to act in its own rhythm.