Is. 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7; Ps. 80; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mk. 13:33-37
(Audio recorded live, 29 November 2020)
On this First Sunday of Advent, in the year 2020, the year of “perfect vision,” Jesus says to all of us: “Watch!” That this Gospel happens to be the first one we hear at the beginning of Advent is more than just coincidence. Think about it. What have we all been doing for most of the year? Have we not been watching? Have we not been glued to our screens? Have we not been inundated with talking heads, conflicting opinions, propaganda, political rhetoric, COVID case numbers, doom, gloom, and more? Or have we had enough?
Jesus says, “Be watchful! Be alert!” But, what are we supposed to be watching? Perhaps we might ask ourselves: Has 24⁄7 coverage of anything that’s been going on this year gotten us any closer to the Father? Perhaps it is possible that, out of fear of getting sick, or losing a loved one, we would turn to God, yes, but there comes a point with anything that we consume as regularly as the daily news, when we ought to assess whether or not we should be consuming it at all. I for one am pretty fed up with the sad state of Mainstream Media. Whatever happened to objective journalism? Where are those journalists who investigate something and simply report the facts? They are beyond few and far between. Today’s news is often more opinion than fact. And at what point do we begin to see through this and call it for what it is: Propaganda. According to Wikipedia, propaganda is communication that is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, which may not be objective and may be presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented. And you know what gets higher ratings? Fear and emotions. More people will watch out of fear or because the content gives them some emotional response. Fear, therefore, is one of the most powerful motivators, and there are literally dozens of networks all vying for our attention by trying to scare us, or shock us, or even drive us to despair.
Jesus tells us to, “Be watchful! Be alert!” Jesus says these words to keep us focused not just on his return, but on Christ himself. He wants us to shift our gaze from screens of fear, anguish, and death, to scenes of angels singing, shepherds praising, and Holy Mother’s bearing new life. These scenes are some of the greatest images of our faith: that the Son of God would take upon himself our human nature, being born of the virgin, in the humblest of conditions, in a stable, placed in a manger, wrapped with bands of cloth, and become for us the way to the Father.
So, be watchful! Be alert! Advent is a time for us to shift our attention to the source of our Christian life; Advent is a time to focus more intently on Christ. And so, may this first Sunday of Advent, may the words of Jesus inspire us to look to him, to put our hope in his coming, and to pray for one another, that we may be safeguarded against fear and anger, and grow in love and peace. And may the communion we share unite us as we await the revelation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Given during the COVID-19 pandemic.