Venerable brothers in the Priesthood, dear Deacons, the Religious Men and Women, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ. We are once again blessed with the Advent Season. Indeed it is a period of grace, a time of expectancy, an occasion of giving and an opportunity of spiritual renewal. The period as it were, calls us to a closer attention to the word of God, an ardent inner preparation and a profound consciousness to the immanent coming of the Lord.

The Season re-echoes the threefold coming of Jesus Christ:

Historical. This is the birth of Jesus Christ at Bethlehem (the House of Bread). This helps us to appreciate not only this historical event but also the meaning of this historical birth place of Jesus Christ. Christ is the true loaf of bread which is given, broken and shared. This image can help us to recollect ourselves and ponder not only on our history but also on specific past incidences in our lives, and how God has been so generous by accompanying and sharing with us on our journey of faith. How, then can we repay the Lord for his goodness? (Ps 116, 12).

Present. This is the mysterious coming of Christ in the providential circumstances of our life and time. This includes the word of God we read and reflect upon. The presence of Christ in the sacraments we celebrate. The presence of Christ in the neighbour (Mt. 25, 40).

Future. This is the final and eschatological coming of Christ at the Parousia, where Christ will judge the living and the dead. This is well articulated in our “Profession of Faith”.

The three comings of Christ encompass the human conception of time i.e. past, present and future. This is the whole time framework of our lives. God is constantly coming. He is present in our lives and He intervenes in our affairs. From the foregoing, the thematic of “Calling” and “Response” becomes more imperative in our lives than ever before.

God is calling each and every one of us and awaits a corresponding response:

That readiness to hear His Word
That readiness of good will to the neighbour and
That readiness to turn away from all evil
The aforementioned aspects ought to be at the centre of our response to the calling of God. The idea of vigilance vis-à-vis our religious response to God’s calling cannot fall short the examples of the prophet Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah portrays in his own person, life and message the shattering crisis of God’s coming to mankind. From the lips of Isaiah, we seem to hear the cry of a sin- laden humanity looking desperately for salvation from on high because a human being has no inner resources to save himself or herself (Is. 63, 15 -19; 64,11).

John the Baptist calls for an overhaul of mankind. He substantiates this calling with the approaching imminent reign of God (Mt. 3, 2). In an absolute, clear and ascetic person of John the Baptist, the theme of being vigilant becomes more incarnate in a vivid way indeed.

God calls to mankind, but He will not force one’s will. The decision to respond is left to each one, to say to God in one’s own way that: Here I am Lord grant me mercy and forgiveness for all my sins. Give me strength to respond to you – NOW. Religion is therefore nothing but a meeting, an encounter, a call from God and a Response from Mankind.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Mary’s greatness lay in this: she was the one who gave a perfect response, “behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done according to your word” (Lk. 1, 38). Our Lady embodies mankind’s response to the Word of God. She expresses in a perfect way what God asks from us, and which we can give only imperfectly.

God calls to mankind, to each and every person and awaits the response of faith that every man and woman must give. In proportion to the response that we give, we are changed, transformed, made anew and ultimately made ready for God’s glory.

This Season of Advent should help us therefore to appreciate the love of God. God continues to call upon us. He stands outside the door of our hearts and knocks. Only each and every one of us can let Him in (Rev. 3, 20). God continues to say to you and me that: You will pass through this world but once. Through all that passage God cares for you, guides you, and comes to you. And at certain times and places God calls clearly to you.

He is calling now:

Any good you have long thought of doing but have not done, do it now
Any inspiration to higher things that you have hitherto ignored, follow that inspiration now
Any breaking from evil that you have tarried with, turn from that evil now
Do not neglect or despise these things, for you will not pass this way again
I wish you a prayerful Season of preparation for the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Our Redeemer. I impart my Apostolic Blessing on all of you and all those you share with this Advent Message.

Given at Solwezi, Saint Daniel’s Cathedral, this 23rd November, the Solemnity of Christ, the King, in the year 2008, the second of my Episcopate.

+Dr. Alick Banda

Bishop of Solwezi