Prepare for the Coming of Christ

First Sunday of Advent. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama at St John the Baptist Church, Tyozua, Makurdi. 29th November, 2020.

What a great joy to celebrate the first Sunday of Advent with you my brothers and sisters in St. John the Baptist Church, Tyozua, Makurdi! I am grateful for the kind invitation of the Parish Priest, Fr. James Bature (Aboki). Even though I am Jukun and not able to speak Tiv, I have decided to say parts of the Mass in Tiv language to convey the message that if we struggle hard enough, we can understand one another’s culture, appreciate what each has; be happy when they are happy, sad when they are sad, and be ready to humbly learn from them what they have that we don’t have. If we do so every time and everywhere, we shall make our communities and indeed our country one of the best in the world.

Unhealthy competition, rivalry and the syndrome of “I before you” or “I am better than you” keeps us in the reverse gear of social progress all the time. We beg God to give us during this Advent the grace to forgive, embrace and support one another, so that we can experience spiritual growth and intimacy with God as well as social, economic and political progress in our land, especially security of lives and property.

Advent invites us to an interior examination as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. We are not just preparing for a social feast but the total acceptance of Christ and his message of peace, love and reconciliation. St. John of the Cross refers to the three stages of spiritual development and thus shows us the path we should follow as part of our preparation for Christmas: purgation (purge yourself of sin, conversion), illumination (growing in faith, love and hope) and union with God (transforming into Christ in this life as much as possible). Being like Christ is a call to conversion which means a change of direction, like Zacchaeus who took a decisive step (cf. Lk. 19:2-9) to break away from his negative past and to make amends.

We often think other people are the sinners or the criminals or the enemies, but we forget that all these are found within us. Advent helps us to dig out the enemy or sinner in us. Have a look at the mirror and who do you see? Work on that person.

In the season of Advent, the Church prepares us to commemorate the event of the birth of Jesus Christ that happened over 2000 years ago. Advent, from the original Latin word “adventus” means “coming”.

The first reading speaks of the history of the people of Israel in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 587 BC by the Babylonians. After this terrible experience, Israel could no longer depend on a human “redeemer”. In Psalm 121:1, the Psalmist says, “I raise my eyes toward the mountains, from whence shall come my help? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth”. Therefore, Advent offers hope that is not empty or deceptive.

Today, Jesus enjoins us to “stay awake”. He repeated the phrase four times in this very short Gospel while St. Paul urges us in the second reading to trust in God’s faithfulness and to live in a manner that we would be found blameless on the day of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 1:7-9).

Furthermore, in our Gospel text, Jesus used the image of a man travelling overseas, leaving behind his servants to take care of the house to teach us not to be complacent and irresponsible in life since we do not know when the Lord will come, we must fulfill our duties as his faithful and trustworthy servants.

The ideal preparation for Christmas is that which puts Christ at the centre. Jesus Christ is the focus of our celebration. Advent season is a holy season. We are challenged to bury our old past of sinful ways and pay good attention to new beginnings; taking heed, being on guard and spiritual watchfulness to meet Christ. The Psalmist says, ‘O Lord of Hosts, bring us back, let your face shine upon us and we shall be saved’ (Ps. 80:3).

Today, we face the negative economic and social impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, inhuman activities of kidnappers, bandits, herdsmen, etc. There is hunger and poverty in the land and frustration is brewing in many quarters. Even in the midst of all these issues, may we live by faith, walk in hope and be renewed in love as we prepare to meet the Lord.

Some Christians who seem to have become tired of waiting, have become spiritually stagnant. St. Paul assures us that those who persevere in the faith shall be blameless before God the Father on the Day of Judgment. Hence, we must never grow weary of doing good.

What we must do in this season of Advent are more acts of charity. What we must avoid are unhealthy social habits such as gossiping, peddling of false rumours, spreading fake news in the social media, telling white lies on phone, such as “I am speaking from Lagos” when I am actually in Makurdi.

Let us remember dear brothers and sisters that the evil we do remains with us but the good we do comes back to us. Let us do more good during this holy period of Advent, and may we experience both spiritual and physical health and safety in order to celebrate Christmas with joy, peace and happiness. Amen.

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