December 3, 2023: First Sunday of Advent
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. Watch, therefore; 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!’”
When I read or hear a familiar Gospel, such as ours for this First Sunday of Advent, I may find myself needing to be roused from a sleep-like state of distraction. The well-recognized words that undergird the Advent theme of vigilance don’t necessarily engage me immediately. If I listen or read the passage again, I may see that, in Jesus’ telling of this parable, I can hear him emphasizing the workers’ need to do their assigned duties and the gatekeeper’s need to be watchful, alert and vigilant. Can these admonishments apply to me, to us, in our time, too, I wonder?
Our awakening to its message may nudge us into undertaking the specific work that we have been given to build up the Kin-dom of God. How can we know what that work is? The Great Commandments, as proclaimed in Mark’s Gospel just prior to today’s Scripture passage, can direct us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12: 30-31).
These commandments call us to be alert to and in touch with God’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others. Being awake and watchful, we will see what is happening around us and be alert to injustices in every form. Reading the daily newspaper, watching just a few minutes of the news or becoming alert to events in our own communities as we walk or drive through them acquaint us with disparities and discrimination.
Recognizing these injustices, we will know that it is our “own work” to confront them as we strive to live lives of love, compassion, forgiveness, honesty and integrity.
What are your thoughts and hopes for the Season of Advent we have just entered? When have you had a keen awareness of God’s active presence in your life? What injustices have you observed and what can you do? I invite you to journal about these questions.