Pastoral Sharings: "First Sunday of Advent"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS

First Sunday of Advent

Posted for November 30, 2014

I know that there will be no danger of anyone falling 
asleep during the sermon today since in the Gospel Christ 
has warned us not once but three times to stay awake!

And staying awake is what being a Christian is all about. Alertness, watching and waiting these are the themes of Advent, but they are actually also the programme for a truly Christian life.

Don’t take this in a literal sense because Jesus is here using spiritual language. Don’t think he means that Christians should stay up all night and never go to bed! If we did that we would soon be a sorry lot and wouldn’t be fit for anything, let alone for living the Christian life.

No, Christ means that we ought to stay awake spiritually. He means that we should be constantly on the alert, on the ‘qui vive’, vigilant and watchful.

But for what or who do we wait? For Christ, of course! As he says, when the Master comes he must not find you asleep. We wait for Christ and specifically we wait for his second coming.

We are in that period between Pentecost and the Second Coming; it is an era of expectation, a time of hope, a period of longing for Christ to come and bring his Kingdom to its complete fulfilment.

Actually the parable in this chosen text is highly relevant because it describes very precisely this period between Pentecost and the Second Coming. The master has physically left us, he has put his servants in charge, each with his own task, and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake to be on the alert for his return.

We are both the servants, each with our own task, and the doorkeeper on the alert for Christ’s return. We work and we watch. We strive to make the Kingdom a reality and we are constantly looking out for the coming of Christ.

Of course, we are most of us much better at working than at watching.

Working is something we all know about, we do it every day. Maybe we went through a phase of laziness in our lives, perhaps in our early teens, but as soon as we realised how much there was to be gained in this life by work we found a new focus.

A lot of us are very good at working; maybe some of us are too good, and we work to the exclusion of most other things.

But working for the Kingdom is not the same as any other work. It is actually quite subtle and it is not a question of just putting more energy in. It is about making connections between people, it is about saying the right thing at the right time, it is about being in the right place, it’s about touching the lives of others, it’s about reaching out, it’s about loving, caring and healing.

Working for the Kingdom involves going the extra mile, it means thinking about the needs of others, it means biting one’s tongue, it means teaching, praising and forgiving.

All of this really is work—believe me! But it is quite specific and involves a great deal of thought and care.

Now if you think that working for the Kingdom is hard then watching is much, much more difficult; it involves different skills such as patience, perseverance and alertness. But also skills that we haven’t been forced by life to cultivate such as being still, listening to the voice within, being sensitive to the action of God in the world and so on.

What we are watching and waiting for is Christ’s coming. But it is in the very nature of Christ to be always coming, always arriving in lots of different ways and in many varied guises.

The two comings we think most about in the liturgical season of Advent are firstly Christ’s coming into the world in human form on the first Christmas Day—the Incarnation—and secondly his coming at the end of time—the Second Coming, the Last Day.

In this season of Advent we feel very much at one with those who waited for the coming of the Messiah. We are only waiting for five weeks, they waited their whole lives long and still the vast majority did not see his arrival.

In fact, when he finally did come only a very few recognised him, and not the ones you would expect —insignificant people like shepherds, wise men from the East, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna; we know from the scriptures that they recognised him but not many others did so.

It is a firm doctrine of our faith that Christ will come in glory at the end of time; that’s what we celebrated last week on the Feast of Christ the King. We hope for and long for Christ’s coming on the Last Day to bring all things under his dominion.

We don’t know when that Day will be; it could be tomorrow or it could be many centuries in the waiting; the one thing we do know is that it certainly will come.

These are the two definitive comings of Christ but he is constantly making other kinds of appearances in our world and in our lives. For those with eyes to see he comes walking by daily. For those who recognise him Christ is always around.

And this is what watching is about. It is developing some very particular skills so that we are enabled to recognise him in his many guises. We need to train ourselves to be alert to his disguises, to notice the signs of his arrival, to be aware of his presence.

And most of all perhaps we need to be able to enjoy his coming, especially his coming to us in prayer.

A lot of the people who live around us don’t understand what we are doing when we pay special attention to someone who cannot offer us anything in return. They find our going out of the way to help others quite strange. They can’t comprehend our generosity.

But for us there is nothing to understand, it comes naturally—we are serving Christ in our midst.

Another thing a lot of people can’t understand is the time we spend in prayer. As far as they are concerned this is lost time, there are other much better things they think they could do with their time. But for us this is time spent with the best friend we’ve got.

And even if we sit there and try to pray but feel nothing that’s OK. We think of it as we would think about waiting for our oldest friend to come and visit us. We are content to wait, to sit quietly and to enjoy the memories of previous visits and looking forward to the joy of his arrival.

Working and watching—these are the things a Christian does. These are the themes of Advent; these constitute the programme of our life.
http://www.catholicwealdstone.org/wordpress/?p=1897

SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent, Year B—November 30, 2014
The Gospel reading sounds the call of Advent: Be watchful! How?

Gospel (Read Mk 13:33-37)

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First Sunday of Advent
Mark 13: 33–37

Gospel Summary

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By calling the Genesis story a “myth,” people avoid saying it is mere “fantasy,” that is, with no foundation in reality at all. While rejecting a literal first pair of human parents for all mankind, they hope to retain some “deeper” truth about an original “sinful human condition,” a “mythic” meaning. They think that the latest findings in paleoanthropology and genetics render a literal pair of first true human parents to be “scientifically impossible.”
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But there are ways to make the holidays bearable and even pleasant.  Here are some things that have worked for me in the past.
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Here’s a few:
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