Year B: The year of Mark`s Gospel.
The great cry of Advent is: “Come, Lord Jesus, Come!”. This act of petition means so much to us as Christians who look forward to the arrival of the One we love: the Lord. Jesus comes to us in three ways:
First, as God and Man. We know Jesus came among us as the Incarnation: God takes on human form. We celebrate this as Christmas. In the cry of the Christ-Child God is among us. Jesus came to establish the Kingdom of God, tell all of the universal love of His Father, extend Divine Mercy to all peoples and to give His Life for the salvation of the world. After the resurrection, Jesus ascended into Heaven but not to leave us. The Lord had told the disciples to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Second, Jesus comes among us in the power of the Holy Spirit. As he told us: “I am with you through it all”, and “Where two or three are gathered, I am among you”. I love the hymn: Christ be beside me. It reminds me God is always with us in every circumstance of our lives. God is with us in His Sacred Word – the Holy Scriptures. He is with us in the Holy Sacraments of the Liturgy, especially Holy Mass. He is with us in each other as we are the baptised Body of Christ. He is also with us in His priests, who are called to guide, teach, bless and sanctify the People of God. In the Spirit, God is with us at all times in all places. In our first Reading from Isaiah, God reminds us that we are like clay being moulded in God’s loving hands by our crosses and acts of love. Throughout life, we are being fashioned into our final form acceptable to God when He comes.
Thirdly, Jesus promised He will return at the end of the age to reward His faithful and to pass judgement. This season of Advent reminds us that we are living in the middle time between Jesus’ first coming as a baby in Bethlehem, and as Lord when God has chosen to end our time of loving, faithful service in His Name. In practical terms we will have been called home by God when we die. But creation looks to the time when all will be finally accomplished and Heaven will be the reward. The great trumpet will sound and Jesus will come escorted by His angels sat on His throne. As believers, we are not filled with fear at the prospect of Jesus’ final coming. we know He loves us, understands our struggles and weaknesses and His Divine Mercy puts everything right.
So, Advent is really a call to concentrate on our vocations. To focus on our identity as Christians. To prioritise the work of the Kingdom of God. When the Lord comes we want to have achieved much through love, selflessness, good example, holiness and compassion. The readings of the last few Sundays have stressed we have been given so much by our generous God and He expects a return on His investment. Our Gospel reading today from St. Mark stresses vigilance, paying attention, staying awake and to be alert at all times.
We Journey in hope. We are pilgrims journeying in hope towards our glorious destiny of eternity with the Lord and our loved ones. In our Gospel, Jesus is teaching as He is about to complete His journey to the cross. When I was a child and we were about to go on holiday, I was so excited I often hardly slept as I was so keyed up. I shot out of bed earlier than usual eager for us to be on our way. Jesus wants us to feel the excitement of our journey with Him. Each morning we set out on more steps along the path God has mapped out for us. He wants us not to fear the day but to be filled with hope. We bring this hope to all our usual and mundane duties, the people we care for or just meet on the highway of life. Each day as it passes is another day closer to the Lord’s call that our journey is complete.
Why does Jesus stress staying awake? Because He understands our human nature. This is highlighted in Gethsemane when His disciples fall asleep at the very moment He most needs their support and companionship. Life in its many demands can make us jaded physically, emotionally and spiritually. But we must not nod off when God needs us most! We need to shake ourselves and stay on message; to remain listening disciples. Jesus speaks of us today as the doorkeepers. We have a duty of oversight, protection and duty. What hope for the world if the Church falls asleep?
On the very rare occasion I am in an airport, I am always there far too early. I intently watch the information screens indicating when we are to board. I am fearful I will miss the plane. So much is happening around me, duty free, people’s comings and goings, but I mind my business and watch the board. This is the fault of one who is not a seasoned traveller, I would rather ‘miss out’ on the airport experience and watch for my flight. I suppose I am afraid of becoming too preoccupied or delayed by distraction. Seasoned travellers have the best experience. They confidently avail of the airport amenities but are too experienced to miss their flight. Jesus wants us to realize we are called to active waiting. Christians are pilgrims and as such are experienced travellers. I can learn from others. Our Lord calls us to active waiting. To know we must be ready for the call to go, but using the intervening time fruitfully. You won’t miss your flight and you can still have your coffee and a bun. The attitude of the Christian should be: a light heart of calm seriousness placed alongside joyful and positive involvement in the reality around us.
The enemy for many of us in life is the course of time. We remember the foolish bridesmaids who, because the groom was late, grew drowsy, fell asleep and had insufficient oil when the groom finally arrived. The promise of the Lord’s Coming is to be an incentive to us. We have a duty or responsibility. Jesus put His Church into the world to be a sign of His love to all peoples. To pray for them and intercede for all. We are in the world not of the world. We are put here by God for the needs of humanity to assist and guide all to life. We are the sentinels, the watchers over who vigilantly keep alert. The fact that we do not know when the Master is coming keeps us on our toes.
Because our future is in God’s hands, we can focus on the here and now in hope and optimism. We can live each day as if it was the Last Day of the Master’s arrival. They say a watched kettle never boils; but of course it will eventually. I suppose this saying is encouraging us that we have a few moments to do something with the time it takes for the kettle to do its job. In our home we had a kettle for the gas hob, and it whistled when it was boiled. There is no room for complacency in the Christian life. We have the Lord’s assurance He is coming, there is no mention of a whistle to alert us. St. Teresa of Calcutta spoke of the sacrament of the present moment. Such a person who uses every instant to serve God, is the vigilant servant who is ever ready for the coming of Jesus. Look after the pennies and the pound will look after itself. Each day is the Lord’s day, it’s the only day we know we have. So, for tomorrow and it’s needs, I do not pray; but keep me, guide, me love me Lord, just for today.
Fr. Gerard X