Recently, I was visiting my sister who lives on the ground floor of an apartment building. The weather being mild, I had the bedroom window open quite a few inches. Every morning, my wakeup call was the cheerful sound of young children’s voices. These young ones would be jabbering to their parents as they left the building then greeting their pals as they met up with them on the way to the school bus stop.
On my fourth morning, I was awake when I heard the apartment building’s door open and close; I heard footsteps — but no chatter, no gleeful greetings. Like Art Garfunkel, I listened to the “sounds of silence.” I listened expectantly, hopefully. Just as I was about to register the feeling of disappointment, I heard a child laugh and call out to a nearby friend, “There you are!”
What an image for Advent! All the elements are present — hopeful waiting, joyful recognition, glad response!
The Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent records Jesus’ admonition to us: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” The time for what will come? The time — in fact, the times — of the in-breaking of Emmanuel into our daily lives.
We know Jesus promises that the Holy One will be always with us — to strengthen, encourage, enliven, comfort, inspire. And, like my young friend, we need to wait expectantly for those moments and recognize them when they happen and for what they are — the actions of Providence in our lives. We need to be ready to see, to understand, to step out to greet these daily movements of the Presence of God. We need to see because we need to respond — we need to each be a providence, a presence of compassion and generosity in whatever places and with whatever people we find ourselves. That’s the point of living Gospel lives — response, response, response — to the God who calls us ever forward, ever into deeper and deeper communion with all that is.
My prayer this Advent season is that I will be alert and watchful and be able to cry out many times a day: “There you are, Holy Mystery! There you are, Emmanuel!” I promise my prayer for you and all whom you love! Know the Sisters of Providence keep you in daily prayer.
Sister Denise Wilkinson, SP