Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

If someone asked you to name the best gift you could give to yourself, what would you say? This question would elicit countless answers according to the needs of various individuals. However, have you considered preparation as the best gift you can give to yourself?

Preparation is very important, and even God, as almighty and powerful as He is, prepares and constantly tells us to prepare. Preparation is simply the ability to make oneself or something ready before an event. A popular quote says that success is when opportunity meets preparation, which is true.

We just entered a new Liturgical Year with the First Sunday of Advent. Advent from the Latin Adventus means coming which also relates to the Greek Parousia, which indicates the coming or presence of a ruler or royalty.

Put together, the Advent season is the time of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. First, in remembrance and celebration of His First Coming when the world took flesh and was born in Bethlehem by Mary in fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.

The four-week Advent period also helps us prepare our souls for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Parousia), which will happen at a time only known to the heavenly Father (Matt. 24:36).

The Waiting and Watching Instructions

In the First Reading (Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7), the prophet intervenes in the estrangement of the people of Israel from God due to their sinfulness. In fact, what they considered as good deeds before God was like polluted rags.

The light of hope in the narrative is where the prophet indicates that those who wait for God will experience his goodness. Upon this premise, the prophet wishes that people would be mindful of God in their ways as they wait on him.

In the Second Reading (1 Cor. 1:3-9), St. Paul admired the spiritual gifts of God on the people, which made them firm and enabled them to wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel Reading (Mark 13:33-37), our Lord Jesus Christ gives us a clearer picture of the end of the waiting and watching when he said: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come”.

Using the image of a master who travels abroad and leaves each servant in charge of a particular task and the gatekeeper to be on the watch, our Lord Jesus Christ further encouraged his disciples to be watchful because the time could be anytime.

Preparation Comes First

Waiting and watching should follow preparation; otherwise, the entire enterprise will be fruitless and useless. But there is a question: “How do you prepare?”

Start from the Mind: Preparation starts with the mind. Advent is not just an event; it is a mindset. We must adopt and sustain this mindset for the season to be productive.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the mindset is not just what you set but a product of transformation. St. Paul, writing to the Romans (12:2), says: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what the will of God is—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Be Intentional: There is a difference between following the season and being functionally involved in the season, which requires commitment and focus, in other words, being intentional.

One of the ways to show that we are intentional about our preparation is to ask ourselves some personal questions and give honest answers. For instance, “What can I do to make the best of this season, and how do I do it?

Moving Forward: Lighting the Candle of Hope

Traditionally, we light the candle of hope on the First Sunday of Advent, which is not a coincidence. Life without hope is simply helpless. Hope functions in helping us stay or hold on even when it does not make sense.

Hope energizes us in the preparation process and further sustains us in the act of waiting and watching. How can you wait and watch for what you have not seen if there is no flicker of hope? As St. Paul says (Romans 8:25): “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Let us avoid the distractions from the world that has commercialized Christmas. Entering the month of December does not mean Jesus is born already. Let us first prepare ourselves through our renewed minds and involved intentions while watching and waiting for the Lord’s productive hope.

We also need to understand that watching means prayer. Jesus said: “Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation (Matthew 26:41). Furthermore, waiting means doing something good. The master who finds the servants doing the right thing has a good reward, as our Lord Jesus Christ tells us in the Gospel of Matthew (24:46).

Happy Advent, and God bless you.

Fr. Bonnie.    

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