Is. 63:16b-17, b, :2-7; Ps. 80; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mk. 13:33-37
Today is the First Sunday of Advent, which marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. And just as everything else in our lives seems to be speeding up, the Church invites us to slow down. Over the next year, our lectionary readings will be drawing from the Gospel of Mark. And Jesus tells us in today’s gospel to, “watch!” What are we watching for during the season of Advent? Well, since the word “advent” means “beginning,” this ought to be for us something like New Year’s Day, when we make our New Year’s Resolutions. Most of our New Year’s resolutions involve dieting, eating better, exercising, spending more time with family and friends, etc. But, how often do we spend time reflecting on how we can improve our spiritual life? How much time are we spending with God? This is why the Church celebrates the season of Advent. It is a time of reflection, introspection, discernment, and meditation—all activities to satisfy the longing in our soul. As Jesus says, “watch!” Watch for the signs that God gives us: Signs that he is near, signs of his blessings, signs of his love for us. Reflect on the awesome reality of his presence in our midst, as Jesus says, “Whenever two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” Meditate on the sacraments, how Jesus is truly and substantially present in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Discern how to lead a life of faith by keeping the commandments and responding to God’s call. Each of us have been called by name and not a single one of us is here by mistake. We were loved into existence and brought to the threshold of heaven on earth: this altar.
If that seems a bit deep, it is. God is infinite, and what we can know of God is like a drop in a great ocean. And just as a drop of water is absorbed by the ocean, so too, is our knowledge made one with the truth who is Jesus Christ. As the prophet Isaiah says, “We are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” It is Christ who molds us; it is Christ who shapes our hearts and minds; it is Christ who guides us, drawing us ever closer to himself. And so, “watch!”
How are we being shaped by Christ? How do we reflect the light of Christ to others? How are we being guided by Christ? These are the kinds of questions we ought to be asking over these weeks of Advent, provided we are able to make the time to slow down and pray. Most importantly of all, we should reflect on the many ways in which Christ is saving us: Saving us from sin, saving us from temptation, delivering us from evil. So let us pray with the psalmist, “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
Jesus encourages his disciples to, “watch,” to be prepared, for we do not know when the lord of the house is coming. St. Paul gives this same encouragement to the people of Corinth. He says it was in Christ they “were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge…so that [they] are not lacking in any spiritual gift as [they] wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What else would waiting for our Lord mean besides, “watch?” We are to keep our hearts and minds fixed intently on Christ. In other words, we are to make Christ the center of our life. So, let us not be found sleeping when he comes. Rather, let us be ready to welcome him as we are whenever we approach the altar.
As we turn to the celebration of the Eucharist, may the grace of the sacrament help us to make the time for Christ, who shapes our hearts, guiding us along the right path. And may the communion we share keep us fixed intently on Christ. “Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).