GRACE, MERCY AND OBEDIENCE

THEME: GRACE, MERCY AND OBEDIENCE

READINGS: Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1, 3-8 / 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 / Mark 13:33-37
1st Sunday of Advent

INTRODUCTION

The first Sunday of Advent begins the liturgical year of the Church. The word ‘advent’ means arrival or coming. Specifically in the liturgical setting, the word ‘advent’ refers to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the Season of Advent, which consists of the four Sundays preceding Christmas, is a time in which we prayerfully remember the first coming of Christ, while preparing spiritually for His second coming.

God’s grace and mercy afford us a new beginning and the capacity to prepare for Christ’s coming. We, in turn, prepare well by obeying God.

BRIEF DEFINITIONS

  • Grace: the free and undeserved gift that God gives us to respond to our vocation to become His adopted children.
  • Mercy: God’s loving kindness, compassion, or forbearance shown to us, despite our sins.
  • Obedience: to listen and freely submit to God’s word or will.

GRACE AND MERCY

“Your Grace and Mercy” (Adom ne ahumɔbrɔ) is the title of an inspiring gospel song composed by Newlove Annan and cherished by many Ghanaians. Franklin William has also written another song with the same title, “Your Grace and Mercy”. Centuries before these songs were written, the Jews acknowledged that it was by God’s grace and mercy that they were able to return from exile in Babylon to the land of their forefathers.

In today’s first reading, for instance, the returnees confessed their unworthiness of God’s favour with the expressions, “filthy cloth”, “like a leaf”, and “like the wind”. Thus, they said to God: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isa. 64:6).

Furthermore, they likened the mercy of God towards them as a potter handles clay (cf. Isa. 64:8). It was God, who out of compassion, could mould or reshape them into the best pottery, as a potter chooses to handle clay.

Finding the task of the reconstruction of the City and Temple of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed 70 years earlier, very daunting, the Jews would plead for more grace and mercy. They would do so by asking God to intervene as He once did in the lives of their ancestors in Egypt and led them with mighty deeds to the Promised Land (cf. Isa. 64:1,3-4). God would eventually respond to their pleading through the decrees of the King Cyrus of Persia, and the leadership of both Nehemiah, the king’s Cupbearer, and Ezra, the priest and scribe of the Law of Moses.

OBEDIENCE

God’s grace and mercy, should be accompanied by our obedience to His word. When, through the joint leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra, the Jews were obedient to God’s commandments, the reconstruction of the City and Temple of Jerusalem was duly accomplished.

However, from time to time the Jews disobeyed God and lost His favour. Then, in the fullness of time, God manifested far exceeding grace and mercy. That is, He sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to save (cf. Gal. 4:4) not only the Jews but all humankind, as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

It was through obedience to His Father that Jesus accomplished the mission of salvation entrusted to Him (cf. Phil. 2:8-11). Therefore, we who by grace believe in salvation through Christ, cannot but obey God (cf. Heb. 5:8-9). Revisiting the image of clay in the hands of a potter, we are to be submissive to God as clay is malleable.

Furthermore, we are to obey like the doorkeeper mentioned by Christ in today’s gospel reading (cf. Mark 13:33-37). His duty was to always keep watch of the master’s house. Acting accordingly was obedience to his master. Ours is to act in accordance with God’s word at all times, for we do not know the day nor the hour when Christ will come again.

CONCLUSION

Beloved, let us not take God’s grace and mercy for granted (cf. 2 Cor. 6:1). Rather, let us always be obedient to God “as [we] wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen [us] to the end, so that [we] may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7-8). Amen!

By Most Rev. John Kobina Louis

Bishop John Kobina Louis

Most Rev. John Kobina Louis is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana. More about him here.

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Catholic Homilies and Sermons for the Liturgical Year by Most Rev. John Kobina Louis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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