Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent and the beginning of a new Church year. We know Advent is a time of preparation to celebrate Christmas, so it would seem logical that our readings would somehow begin to prepare us for that feast. But that is not what happens. Our Gospel continues the theme of the last few weeks, warning us to be prepared for the coming of the master, because we do not know when that will be. The Gospel begins with, Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come and ends with, What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’ In between is Mark’s version of the servants left to take care of things while the master goes away.
“Be watchful!” “Be alert!” “Watch.” It can sound scary. But I don’t think it is helpful to be scared or fearful. For me, the operative word is “alert.” For example, it is certainly more challenging to drive these days. But being afraid doesn’t help me; being more alert and watchful about the drivers around me is helpful. The same with walking in a dark parking lot late at night: being scared could paralyze me, but I certainly am alert and watchful.
Similarly, being fearful could actually make it harder for us to do what Jesus wants, which is to be watchful for His coming in the beggar on the street, in the homebound person who is isolated, in the people coming into the food pantry for essentials, in the difficult coworker or family member that everyone avoids, and so on. If I am afraid and cautious, I might be less willing to take the risk of reaching out and interacting.
As we begin this season of being watchful and waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ, let us resolve to grow in our ability to be watchful and alert, so that we are better able to recognize Christ as he comes to us in the people and situations of our daily lives. God bless.
Church sign of the week: The right thing and the hard thing are usually the same thing.