Life in the dead of the night

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 29 November 2020
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7  +  1 Corinthians 1:3-9  +  Mark 13:33-37
Photo by Atty. Polaris Grace Rivas-Beron at the summit of Mt. Sinai, May 2019.

A blessed happy new year to everyone as we begin today the new liturgical year of our Church calendar with the first Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus for “coming”, Advent is a time meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.

And with all the problems and sufferings we have been going through this 2020 with the pandemic still around us in this joyous season of Christ’s coming, we hope that we make this Advent Season more serious so we may have a more meaningful Christmas, prepared for 2021 (see our recent blog, https://lordmychef.com/2020/11/23/surely-there-will-be-christmas-2020/)!

Like Lent, though in a less penitential mode, Advent is a time to pray and reflect on our lives and if possible, go to confessions to cleanse our hearts so Jesus may come and rest there like when he was born on a manger in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

Our first reading today beautifully sets the mood for Advent 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 with a prayer so true with each one of us:

You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…

Isaiah 63:16-17, 19
Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Advent is for new beginnings, for coming again.

Year 2020 is without doubt very difficult for everyone but it teaches us in the most unique way the essentials in life like God, family, friends, true self, and things like kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, simplicity, presence, and other niceties we have taken for granted for so long. It is about time that we recover these specially in Advent which is the season of new beginnings when we start anew in life.

And where do we start?

Right where we are, here in our darkness in the pandemic and within our hearts, far from God by beginning to pray anew to him so he may finally come and return to us!

The words by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading are so perfect at this time as if these were written only recently, expressing our true sentiments within: that we are sorry for having drifted far from Jesus and from others all these years, so focused with things and gadgets than with God and persons.

Our hearts have been too hard, distant from God and each other, so cold and so dark that we have become so insensitive, callous and numb or even without any conscience at all that in the midst of a pandemic, there are some who can still utter lies and malice with their hands also tainted with blood and corruption.

It is so sickening but, the more we pray and listen to our inner selves, we also find how this darkness has slowly encroached on us too, happening at different levels right in our own family circles, in our community, and even in our church maybe!

On bended knees, we humbly admit our need for God to intervene now – to rend the heavens – and bring us back to our senses and unto him, so we may finally find rays of hope, even a glimmer of light in this darkness we are into.

As we pray for the Lord’s advent or coming, we need to strive to be vigilant on our part as we patiently await him right in our hearts in this night of the pandemic and chaos going on.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

Mark 13:33, 35-37
Photo by author, Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020.

Though we live in darkness, we belong to Christ who is light himself!

Everywhere in the world, except Down Under perhaps, the Season of Advent always falls in that time of the year when the nights are longer and most of all, darkest as in winter experienced in the western hemisphere, including Europe.

In fact, Christmas Eve is the darkest night of the year, the date Christ was born to bring light and be the light of the world.

See how Jesus used the night as the time of the return of the “lord of the house” (who is himself, too) when everything is dark and difficult.

For the young generation today, it may mean nothing at all as they have grown accustomed to our 24/7 world where work continues into the night like during the day with offices and stores opened and public transportation readily available.

During the time of Jesus and even 30 years ago, we rarely travelled nor even went out past six in the evening because of the many dangers at night like criminal elements lurking for their preys and simply the difficult situation of seeing clearly the roads ahead. In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil and sin like Jesus being betrayed by Judas after their last supper while in Genesis, we find how in darkness was nothing but chaos until God created everything.

And there lies the good news of the night, of darkness, and of Advent: Jesus Christ as the light himself of the world comes to save us at night! It was before dawn when Jesus walked the waters of the Sea of Galilee to save his apostles while being tossed by giant waves in their small boat. It was also in the darkness of the night when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Yes, we all live in the night when darkness envelops us, even our hearts and very lives with so many problems and crises happening but we never lose hope, we never lose sight of that glimmer of light for we do not belong to the night but to Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Photo by author, Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020.

Advent is patient waiting for the Lord’s coming.

Night is the time when it is best to believe in the light. As one poet had said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” But, another unknown poet had also said that “Only the brave who dare to walk the darkest of nights shall see the brightness of the stars above.”

Our lives may be in darkness or even dark itself these days but we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist today even if the the Lord’s coming may be delayed because we know deep in our hearts that “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor.1:9).

One thing we need to pray for this season are patience and vigilance in awaiting his return during this darkness.

Patience is a virtue becoming so rare these days when everything is rushed as we live in a world of “instants” like instant gratification and, yes! — even instant vaccine against COVID-19 without us realizing its deep implications of calls for changes in the way of living and doing things in the world as individuals and as nations. From the Latin “patior” which is to bear all pains, patience is also believing that something better will happen in every sufferings we patiently endure.

Likewise, vigilance is more than being awake and prepared for any eventuality but an active waiting for someone or something by taking risks due also to a firm belief something better will come out of trying situations.

Patience and vigilance go together for both are fruits of real and hard prayer, expressions of deep faith in God.

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

On this first Sunday of Advent with clouds still turning dark with rains that have never stopped drenching us these past weeks, we continue to celebrate the Eucharist thanking God for our long-term faith in Christ’s Second Coming.

When we look back to those past nine months of darkness in this pandemic worsened by recent calamities and a clueless government since January, we actually gone far than we have expected.

Why? Because we have never lost hope from the little glimmers of lights God has sent us since the lockdown in March! We have survived and slowly, many of us are finding life’s deeper meanings and realities in God our Father.

Notice how in every patient waiting for Christ’s Second Coming in the midst of the many darkness in life, the Lord actually comes nearer to us, albeit slowly and unnoticeably?

That’s the beauty of Advent, new beginnings always happening for those patiently waiting in the Lord.

Let us be on guard during these long nights of darkness when temptations are strongest and so appealing. Like at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wants us to “watch” with him by praying to the Father so we may remain faithful and focused on him alone to soon find life in the dead of the night. Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you!

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