First Sunday of Advent Year B (3 December 2017)
Isa 64:1-9, 1 Cor 1:3-9, Mk 13:24-37, Ps 80:1-7, 18-18
Theme: Keep Awake
The invitation in today’s Gospel to be watchful is a key message of the Advent season: To be vigilant while waiting for the coming of Christ.
Christians believe that after the passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven of Jesus Christ, he “shall come to judge the living and the dead” (Apostle’s Creed).
The word Christ, Christos, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Moshiach (Messiah), is a title which means “anointed.” In Biblical Hebrew, the title moshiach was bestowed on somebody who had attained a position of nobility and greatness to include priests (Exo 29:29; Lev 4:3), kings (1 Sam 10:1; 24:7), and prophets (Isa 61:1).
In Talmudic literature the title Moshiach, or Melech HaMoshiach (the King Messiah), is reserved for the Jewish leader who will redeem Israel in the End of Days.
As stated by Maimonides, Jews believe that one day there will arise a dynamic Jewish leader, a direct descendant of the Davidic dynasty, who will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and gather Jews from all over the world and bring them back to the Land of Israel. Today, Jews await the coming of this messiah.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the title Christ gradually became a proper name and the expression Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus became only one designation. This shows that the Christians identified Jesus with the promised Messiah of the Jews.
In this season of advent, preparations for the coming of Christ, whether it is his first coming, second coming or his coming everyday into our lives, shall include how to be in the grace of God. Among others, as stated in last week’s Gospel (Mt. 25:31-46), this calls for the giving of loving kindness (gemilut chassadim) so as to be judged as “sheep” who will be blessed to inherit the kingdom of God. That is, one has to give food to the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, take care of the sick and visit prisoners.
In today’s Gospel, the mention of the servants “sleeping” (Mk 13:36) prepares for the picture of the disciples sleeping in the Gethsemane episode (Mk. 14:37, 40, 41) where Jesus asks Peter: Were you not strong enough to watch one hour? (v. 37b) And he says: “Keep watching and praying lest you enter into testing.” (v. 38).
Full of distress, Jesus prays that God spare him of the suffering awaiting him as he begs, “Take this cup away from me.” But in the end, Jesus affirms his faith in God’s power. Addressing God as “Abba, Father,” he submits to his will and says: “Not what I wish but what you wish.” (v.36). Scholars has pointed this as linking the Gethsemane narrative to the Lord’s Prayer which is a prayer for the full coming of God’s kingdom (“Thy kingdom come”).
In Gethsemane, Jesus leaves his disciples three times to pray and return to find them sleeping each time. But in spite of the disciples’ persistent weakness and failures, Jesus invites them to accompany him as he moves forward to the cross. (“Get up. Let us go.”)
We may be human and weak, but we are invited to suffer for Christ and to hope in the coming of the kingdom. And praying is part of this invitation.
In sum, our vigilance to prepare for the coming of the Lord shall include doing good works, praying and seeking the will of God in our lives. Our prayer may be: Lord, come. We await your coming. We want to know your will so it’s your will, not mine, that will be done.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) We are to celebrate another Christmas this year. What are you doing to celebrate it differently from previous years? 2) What about spiritual preparations? What can you add to these practical suggestions: Attend advent recollections, set aside time for prayer, spiritual reading?
Bibliography: Almazan, “Welcome to our Bible Study: 1st Sunday of Advent” unpublished. Nov. 30, 2011, Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08374x.htm, Dubov,”What is the Jewish Belief about Moschiach (Messiah)? In http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/108400/jewish/The-End-of-Days.htm, Harrington, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Mark (Minnesota, 2002); The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible in https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+13%3A24-37&version=NRSV,
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Gospel commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Sunday Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the Bat Kol Institute, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bat Kol. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.
Bat Kol Institute for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
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