THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, 30 NOVEMBER 2014
Comments on the Mass readings for the day.
Reading 1: ISAIAH 63:16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7
...There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.
Responsorial: PSALM 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
...May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
...Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Reading 2: 1 CORINTHIANS 1:3-9
...in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end.
Gospel: MARK 13:33-37
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
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.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
Beginning at the end of the meditation: remember that this season of Advent is the season to take the longer view of things. That is to say, beyond the jumble of our daily business we are invited to hope in the coming of Christ in its double sense--the immanent sense of the arrival of the baby Jesus present in our hearts and family hearths at Christmas and the transcendent sense of the Second Coming of the Risen Lord, King of Heaven and Earth, at the end of time. This much is true always and everywhere.
But for many reasons we are not guided by what is true. Our days are full: of distractions that compete for time and attention, and misplaced priorities whose result is often the loss of healthy self-direction and focus. We should never forget that Scripture is true for all. Isaiah is speaking about us and to us when he complains that "there is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you." We are often looking elsewhere, leading lives that are subject to the morally ambiguous rules of the world because we have lost the habit of looking beyond the world. God does not have to work very hard to "hide his face" from us, because we no longer seek his face.
Our motives don't have to be evil; but, failing to trust in the invitation of God, we endanger our will to use fully the strengths given to us at Baptism, through the Sacraments and by our life as the Church. The Apostle Paul makes it a point to remind his hearers to remember the help God extends to us through the Body of Christ: "you were enriched in every way,with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift." When we are too self-absorbed, we fall short of the goodness of God that can otherwise shine in our charity, our use of our talents, and in our clarity about the mission of our lives. We're drifters.
Of course, Jesus well knows the inner and outer natures of his followers. He knows we are drifters. Hence, “Be watchful! Be alert! What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’" This command transcends whatever work we do as servants of the Master. Clergy or lay, entrepreneur or wage-worker, knowledge-worker or heavy-lifter, it's all the same as long as we exercise vigilant attention for the return of the Lord. That means we are on our best behavior, exercising concern for the preparedness of the whole estate. If a fellow worker is struggling, we don't say "That's your department." And last of all do we ignore or stray from our charge and give in to the world's disorder.
We can all see the contrasting approaches in our daily experience.
On "Black Friday" we saw video depicting a discount store melee over who would buy the last big-screen TV. The teenager who filmed the incident understood perfectly well the silliness of the adults losing all sense of focus and composure. Just a couple of miles away a significant line of contemporary Hobbits waited patiently for two hours, socializing or reading, sharing donuts and coffee. Granted--I was at a bookstore. But the demographics of the population in that part of town are not so different, so we can't blame it on class. How to wait, and how to live while we wait, and what to wait for, are the questions. "Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name. ...Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved."