November 29, 2023 at 12:14 p.m.

Advent: Waiting with Vigilance

This season is the remembering of Jesus’ birth and the anticipation of the second coming of the Christ.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.

By Sister Linda Neil, CSJ | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Happy New Year! 

Yes, Advent begins the Church’s New Year – that wonderful gift of liturgical time, when we follow Jesus through his life, death and resurrection. Advent doesn’t get the media attention of the January New Year; there are no fireworks, no rowdy celebrations and no hangovers. Advent, “coming toward”, is the remembering of Jesus’ birth and the anticipation of the second coming of the Christ.  Advent comes in quietly. The hubbub of the season is more about an expectation of Christmas with its shopping, decorating and eating. 

Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ”
- Mark 13:33-37

When we take time to deeply reflect on Advent,  it becomes clear that this season is not really so quiet. Advent announces the greatest event in history – the Incarnation. This is the awesome re-creation of the world as the Holy One breaks into time and the Second Person of the Trinity takes on flesh and blood. All of creation is transformed by the Incarnation! Advent calls us to pause, to silence ourselves and to pay attention to God’s tremendous working among us.

The First Reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah throbs with this feeling of God’s accomplishing something new. “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for … No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.” Of course, Third Isaiah (Is. 56-66) is referring to the restoration of the people of Israel. But for us, in the context of Advent, we hear the call to reflect on the way that Holy Mystery has upended all expectations of salvation, all expectations of redeeming wayward human kind. Who could ever imagine that God would lavish us with God’s own Son to show us the way back home? Yes, the Incarnation is an awesome deed beyond our wildest hopes. Not only has God turned God’s very face toward us in Jesus, the Christ, but the Holy One has invited us to become sons and daughters – blood relations!

In the Gospel, Jesus points out what is most urgent in this time of waiting for the fullness of his coming. We must be watchful, alert to his presence in our world. This is the challenge of Advent. In a world that is taken up with every distraction, a world that calls us to what is short-lived and often superficial we need to listen for Jesus’ returning footsteps. We are “servants in charge, each with our own work.” Now is the time to examine how we are doing that work   the living of the Gospel, the faithful following of the Beatitudes, the loving our neighbor without judgment or discrimination. Sometimes Jesus comes in obvious ways – a request from a friend or family member, the appeal to donate time and resources to heal our world. Sometimes the entreaty is very subtle. We need to pay attention to another person’s plight that is unspoken. We need to make extra time in our busy schedules for the Holy One to dialogue with us.  We cannot fall asleep on the job! Advent is a time of renewed wakefulness!

As disciples so much is asked of us! St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians assures us that God’s grace has been bestowed on us in Christ Jesus, that we are enriched in every way and that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift. Sometimes when life seems too much and we are tempted to ignore the call to live the Gospel more authentically, we need to take a deep breath and remember how much we are graced in Christ. The Incarnation that we are preparing for during Advent has already come. Jesus is part of our very heart and abides in our very soul. Jesus the Christ is alive in all of creation, in all of humankind. Can we see? Can we hear? Advent is the gift that restores our awareness of the Holy One throbbing in our lives.


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