1st Sunday of Advent

1st Sunday of Advent


Michal Hunt

Brant Pitre

Fr. Francis Martin

Theology of the Body

Life Recovery Notes

Preaching on Abortion


Church Fathers

GOSPEL: Mark 13:33-37

Need for Watchfulness


St. Augustine of Hippo:

“But where our Lord says, ‘You know not when the time is; for it is as when a man going into a far country, left his house,’ He means by the man going into a far country, Himself when He should have departed to the Father, having not told any what he should do in His own house, but had left it to the training of the disciples, that under His direction men should know when He judges it meet to be done, that when the many things He spoke should be fulfilled, they might also perceive without ambiguity what He desires to be done. And these things He calls ‘watching;’ in that the Day of Judgment is determined uncertainly, when He chooses to visit, that He may in consultation with His servant, as long as He has seen truly what has been done in it.” (On the Gospel of John 17.6)

Origen of Alexandria:

“For He says, Watch ye, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come; and Mark hath said, Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is; for it is as a man taking a far journey, who left His house, and gave His power to His servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. But ye watch, for ye know not when the Lord of the house cometh; lest having come suddenly, He find you sleeping. And that you may learn that this is also said for you (for if the words were spoken to the disciples, only the believing Jews could receive them) He hath added, And what I say to you, I say unto all.” (Homilies on Matthew 11.4)

St. Cyprian of Carthage:

“That we may know also that the hour of the resurrection is unknown, He adds: Take heed, watch and pray, for you know not when the time is. For in the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all, they were eating and drinking, they were buying and selling, they were marrying and giving in marriage, even unto the day when Noah entered into the ark; and they knew not until the flood came and took them all away.” (Treatises 11.6)

St. John Chrysostom:

“In a figure therefore, He foretells also His own ascension. Because in order that the discourse might be more persuasive, He said what it became them to do, by the figures of what took place in the flood. Watch therefore, He says, for ye know not, when the day will be. But He signifies nothing else by this, than that when He was ascending into Heaven, they ought to take great heed of their conversation, because He had given them all things in charge, and except they were diligently attentive, they would not be able to say anything in His vindication, against the gainsayers. For this reason therefore He instructs them, to watch that probably even after His departure, they might still stand fast.” (Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew 76)

St. Cyril of Alexandria:

“He says, therefore, to them that excelled in the priesthood and the hierarchal order, and to all servants of God, who are here ministers to the people, Watch you and pray, that you may not be taken by surprise in the time of temptation, and that you may not fall into some unexpected mischief. For it is written, He that falls seven times, shall rise again: but let him look for the providence of God. For as the sinner goes back again to the things through which he fell, and which he remembers, in the same manner the just person likewise, having fallen through mishap, is restored.” (Fragment 214)


Verse 33: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”

Commentary: Jesus urges his disciples to be watchful and alert, emphasizing the uncertainty of the timing of significant events. This verse calls believers to live in a state of readiness and vigilance for the coming of the Lord.

Paragraph 672 – The Catechism teaches that the second coming of Christ, the Parousia, remains an event to occur, whose time is known only to God. Christians are called to remain watchful, eagerly awaiting Christ’s return and living in awareness of His coming Judgment.

Verse 34: “It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.”

Commentary: Jesus uses the analogy of a master leaving his servants in charge and appointing a gatekeeper to illustrate the need for vigilance and faithfulness in carrying out one’s duties. The gatekeeper’s role is to watch for the master’s return, reinforcing the importance of being alert and watchful in the Christian life.

Paragraph 2582 – The Catechism teaches that prayer is watching in faith, and it draws upon the example of the gatekeeper, emphasizing the need for believers to be attentive to the Master’s coming and to fulfill their responsibilities diligently.

Verse 35: “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.”

Commentary: Jesus continues to stress the need for constant vigilance since the exact hour of the Lord’s coming is unknown. He emphasizes that believers should be prepared at all times, highlighting the uncertainty surrounding the arrival of the Kingdom of God.

Paragraph 2612 – The Catechism teaches that vigilance and perseverance are essential in prayer, as believers await the Lord’s coming. Prayer should be rooted in an awareness of the uncertainty of time and a readiness to respond to the Lord’s call whenever it comes.

Verse 36: “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

Commentary: Jesus warns against spiritual negligence or complacency, urging his disciples to remain awake and attentive. He encourages believers to stay actively engaged in their faith, ensuring that they are prepared for the coming of the Lord.

Paragraph 2619 – The Catechism cautions against a lukewarm or indifferent attitude towards prayer, emphasizing the need to avoid the spiritual slumber Jesus warns against. It encourages believers to remain vigilant and responsive to the Lord’s call.

Verse 37: “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

Commentary: Jesus concludes his message by reiterating the importance of watchfulness to all his followers. This admonition extends beyond the immediate disciples and applies to every believer throughout time, emphasizing the universal call to be vigilant in the Christian life.

Paragraph 2617 – The Catechism underlines the significance of watchfulness and its application to all believers. It reminds Christians that Jesus’ call to watch extends to every member of His Church, urging them to be ever-ready for the Lord’s coming.

Please note that specific paragraph references from the Catechism are not available for every verse, as the connection between the exact verse and the teachings in the Catechism may not always be direct or explicit.

Doctrinal Homily Outlines | Fr. Vincent Hawkswell | Fr. Clement Thibodeau

Mass Readings Explained

1st Sunday of Advent - Year B

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Agape Bible Commentary

1st Sunday of Advent - Year B

Remain Vigilant!

First Reading

God Our Redeemer

The new Church year begins with a plea for God’s visitation: 17b Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.  […] 19b Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you. This heart-rending lament of the covenant people of Israel calls for the visible return of God in the same way that He appeared to them in the Theophany at Mount Sinai (Ex 19:16-19).  The people are looking for proof that God has not abandoned them.  They acknowledge that their sins have caused a breach in their relationship with Him, but they remind God that He is still their divine Father, and they are the children He created, as individuals and as the covenant nation He formed at Mount Sinai (Ex 19:5-8; 24:1-11).

Christian tradition interprets these verses as a petition fulfilled in the First Advent of Jesus, the Messiah.  St. Paul quotes from this same passage in Isaiah when writing about the wisdom of God, His faithful covenant love for those who love Him, and the blessings He plans for His people.  Quoting Isaiah 64:3, Paul writes: But as it is written: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,” this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  For the Spirit scrutinized everything, even the depth of God (1 Cor 2:9-10).  Since we will not receive these extraordinary gifts fully until the next life, the Christ Fathers and other Christian commentators cite this verse when referring to the eternal blessings enjoyed by the fully redeemed in the heavenly beatitude.

Michal E Hunt, Copyright © 2014; revised 2023 Agape Bible Study; used with permission

Second Reading

Fellowship with Christ While Waiting for His Return

Verse 3 is St. Paul’s greeting in his letter to the Christian community at Corinth.  St. Augustine wrote that the peace Paul writes about is the peace of the soul that originates in friendship with God which grace brings with it and is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Augustine, De verb. Dom. Serm., 58; also see Gal 5:22-23).  Paul’s prayer for a blessing of “peace” isn’t an earthly concept of peace, meaning the absence of conflict.  It is a divine, spiritual peace and a gift of God “that surpasses all understanding” and “will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).

In verses 4-9, Paul gives thanks to God for the community.  Then he reminds them that they owe their election among the blessed to God who chose them through a divine call.  Like all Christians, they received God’s grace in Christ Jesus that has enriched them in every way.  The gift of grace through Christ Jesus gives them a share in God’s divine nature (see 2 Pt 1:4) and raises them to a new level of privileged existence only shared by those redeemed in the blood of Jesus.  Through a spiritual re-birth in Christian baptism (Jn 3:3-5), this transfigured nature enables Christians to share in the perfection of God’s inner life.  Our new life in Christian Baptism is the introduction to a privileged state that will be fulfilled at the end of life on earth when the lives of those who die in a state of grace become joined to the life of the Most Holy Trinity in the heavenly paradise.  

8 We will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  9 God is faithful, and by him, you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In the meantime, as we wait for the time of Christ’s return, Paul assures the Corinthian community that he and the others Jesus chose to shepherd His Church will continue to tutor and guide the faithful.  Their mission is to call believers to fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  He sustains His people in holiness with His very life through His gift of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments to guide and protect them on their journey to salvation.  Our faith journey may end in the Second Advent of Christ and the Final Judgment (CCC 1038-41).  Or, our life on earth may end in death and facing Christ at our Individual/Particular Judgment (CCC 1021-22).  Either way, God gives us everything we need to be watchful and ready for that meeting that will signal success or failure at the climax of our lives.


Michal E Hunt, Copyright © 2014; revised 2023 Agape Bible Study; used with permission


Be Alert and Watch for the Coming of the Master!

In this short parable, Jesus appears to speak of His return in glory.  However, He might also be referring to the violent end of the old Sinai Covenant and the judgment on the people and Jerusalem because they rejected their divine Messiah (Lk 19:44).  Referring to the judgment against Jerusalem and the Old Covenant hierarchy, Jesus said: “For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.  They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Lk 19:43-44).  

Jesus tells a parable in which He is the man who leaves on a journey (His Ascension into Heaven) and places His servants (the Apostles and disciples and those of future generations) in charge of His “house” (the Church).  The gatekeeper whose duty is to be “on the watch” (verse 34) refers to the chief steward of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, St. Peter and his successors.  Jesus names the four night-watches observed during the period of the Roman occupation of Judea: 35 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.

The Four Night-Watches in the first century AD:

  1. #1: Evening Watch from sundown (c. 6 PM) to 9 PM
  2. #2: Midnight Watch from 9 PM to midnight
  3. #3: Cockcrow Watch from midnight to 3 AM (the trumpet that signaled the end of the third Watch at 3 AM was called the “cockcrow”)
  4. #4: Dawn Watch from 3 AM to dawn (c. 6 AM)

A trumpet blast announced the change from one Watch to the next.  The night watchmen who blew trumpets at the end of each Watch were in the Jewish Levitical guard at the Temple and also the Roman Watch in the Antonia Fortress.  You may remember that Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Jesus at “cockcrow.”  After Peter denied Jesus, he heard “cockcrow,” the 3 AM trumpet (see Mt 26:34; 26:69-75).  St. Mark’s Gospel mentions two cockcrow signals, probably referring to the one at the Temple and the second at the Roman fortress (Mk 14:29-30; 71-72).  

The same sequence of events foretelling the destruction of the Temple, the end of the Sinai Covenant, and the return of Jesus in the Second Advent occurs in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels.  Jesus’ point may also be that the end of the Old Covenant, finalized in the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Old Covenant Temple worship and sacrifices in AD 70, signals the beginning of a new and final age in the rule of Christ’s Kingdom of the Church.  The Age of the New Covenant Kingdom of the Universal Church is the last age of humanity, and it will last until Jesus’ Second Advent, followed by the Final Judgment of the nations.  In this passage, the keywords for all generations are Jesus’ commands to “Be watchful! Be alert” (verse 33).  He warns us to be ready for His Parousia (appearing), so He will find us diligent in doing the good works of faithful servants who belong to His “House” that is the Kingdom of the Church.

Michal E Hunt, Copyright © 2014; revised 2023 Agape Bible Study; used with permission


Kieran J.
O’Mahony, OSA



Fr. O’Mahony, OSA

1st Sunday of Advent - Year B

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Fr. Francis Martin



Ordinary Time

Fr. Francis Martin

1st Sunday of Advent - Year B

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Fr. Francis Martin +August 11, 2017, served as Professor and then Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. He also taught at the Gregorian University in Rome, the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, Catholic University in Washington, D.C., Franciscan University of Steubenville), and the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.