The First Sunday of Advent 2017 ~ December 3, 2017
Be Watchful! Be Alert! You don’t know when . . .
At a certain point in life, the deep desires and cravings of our heart reach a point of eruption in us. Yet at the same time comes the awareness that we cannot bring about what we want—we don’t have inside us what’s needed to fulfill and satisfy our longings. And so, with our infinite yearnings we turn to the Infinite and cry, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.” Our experience of helplessness before our boundless human need moves us to ask for fellowship with God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The nature of our desire assures us as we enter into Advent that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The Lord of the house is coming” “Be watchful! Be Alert!” (the December 2017 Magnificat liturgical magazine)
And so, the Church begins a New Year this Sunday as we turn from the Cycle A readings of the Gospel of Matthew to the Cycle B readings of the Gospel of Mark—the shortest of them all. And as tradition has it, we begin with “the End”—a warning of what is to come. The Gospel is from 13:33-37—just before Mark’s account of the Passion.
“Jesus said to his disciples: Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come” (13:33).
Be Watchful: Jesus will urge this again during his agony in Gethsemane.
A Fifth Century writer: If each person is ignorant of their own day of judgment, they will contend to be baptized at their final breath, as a result of which they will enter eternity bereft of good works—saved by faith but unable to manifest its works. [ . . .] Jesus adds all but saying, “The reason I did not tell you the day is so that, not knowing you might watch and pray and keep awake, showing that if people knew when they were going to die, all would be virtuous only at that hour.”
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” (13:35).
The Lord may come in the evening as he does at the Last Supper. He may come at midnight as he does in the garden of Gethsemane when he was handed over by his betrayer. He may come when the cock crows—the time Peter denies him. Or he may come in the morning: the time of the Resurrection.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping” (13:36).
Mary Healy: “Jesus warns that he may come suddenly and find them sleeping—which is just what happened during the agony in Gethsemane (Mk 14:3-41). To be asleep signifies spiritual laziness and self-indulgence (Rom 11:8); to be awake is to be alive in faith (Rom 13:11; Eph 5:14).
St. Augustine: “It is clear that God takes no pleasure in condemning. His desire is to save, and he bears patiently with evil people in order to make them good. Do you despise him and think his judgment a matter of no account because he is good to you, because he is long-suffering and bears with you patiently, because he delays the day of reckoning and does not destroy you out of hand?”
“What I say to you, I say to all: ’Watch!’” (13:37).
The Scripture-scholar William Barclay would summarize this by saying Jesus’ words here tell us a couple of things about the doctrine of the Second Coming.
~ It tells us it contains a fact we forget or disregard at our peril.
~ it tells us that the imagery in which it is clothed is the imagery of Jesus’ own time and that to speculate on it is useless, when Jesus himself was content not to know. The one thing of which we can be sure is that history is going somewhere; there is a consummation to come.
~ It tells us that of all things to forget god and to become immersed in earth is most foolish. The wise person is one who never forgets that the need to be ready when the summons comes. If we live in that memory, the end will not be terror, but eternal joy.
The first reading from Isaiah is a wonderful piece of prose . . .
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,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind. (Isaiah 63)
Yes, we should be . . .
prepared ~ watchful ~ alert ~ aware ~ awake
knowing what’s happening
. . . but so many of us are asleep, Lord.
We tend to not recognize the signs of the times.
We often dull our senses; stay in our own little worlds,
choosing not to care.
We’re often complacent, Lord.
Many don’t want to be bothered pondering or praying about the real issues.
We’re into Cyber Monday bargains and wowed by the latest iphone.
But deep down we’re fearful and anxious, caused by threats
. . . of losing our job / having a lump in our breast
losing health insurance because Congress’ latest whim.
Global warming / gun violence /
corruption on Wall Street and government
North Korea / ISIS / cyber war.
“Stand erect,” the Gospel says.
Face your fears with courage.
Don’t fear the terror of the night (Psalm 91.)
That’s what Advent faith is all about . . .
Being vigilant. Being prepared for anything life throws at us.
Standing proudly humble or humbly proud ~ no matter what.
That’s the kind of faith in life ~ in You, my God, that I seek.
I want it. I ask you for it.
Today I consent to it.
Amen. So be it!
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There will be fresh blog posts (God willin’ n’ the creek don’t rise) almost every day of Advent till Christmas.
Why not make this Christmas season a special one for you ~ a meaningful one?
Now before you go, here’s a song to get you in an Advent mood from Godspell. Click here – enter full screen and turn up your speakers. And as Tiny Tim would say, God bless you, everyone. But that’s getting a little ahead of ourselves.
(Here are today’s Mass Click here
Have a wonderful Advent!