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But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware; keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." Mark 13:33-37
Sometimes it seems that we contemporary Christians have the attention span of humming birds. We flit from task to task, distraction to distraction. Sure we’re working hard. We’re meeting our obligations. But our days are ruled by the crisis du jour, interspersed with escapist entertainment. String enough of these busy days together and we risk lifetimes of mindless, soulless busyness. And just as we’re in danger of multi-tasking ourselves into a spiritual stupor, Advent is back again.
Thank you, Lord. We need it. This Sunday’s gospel nails the spirit of the season. Jesus tells us to snap out of it. Get our priorities straight. Stay awake. The Lord is coming. That’s what’s important in life. In our hyper-caffeinated world, while we’re coping with high levels of economic, domestic and social stress, there’s not much chance of our literally falling asleep on God. But there is a major risk of our falling into routines that leave no room for him…that drag us down in a succession of hectic, Godless days. We certainly don’t set out to disrespect God, but he’s got to wait his turn. We have so many more pressing things to do. Advent is an opportunity to snap that spiral…to put Jesus back in the center of our lives.
Grace is a gift from God. But holiness is a gift we grow and give back to God. Grace is no guarantee of holiness. We must cooperate with God’s grace to nurture holiness. It’s the healthiest habit we can ever have. It builds character, serenity, joy…all the great, good things of a vigorous Christian life. And it all starts with staying spiritually awake, being prepared for Christ’s coming, welcoming him into our lives every day, not as a vague abstraction, but as the driving force. It is a very tall order. Merely wishing won’t make it so. We have to work at it. And that’s where Advent comes in.
Let’s not wait for God to knock. Invite him in every morning in Advent. Start the day with a greeting. Praise the Lord. Thank him. Ask Jesus to stay with you through the day. Then check back as the day goes on: before meals, between tasks, in breaks, on errands. Make Jesus an integral part of your routines. It’s the very best thing you can do with your day. Then end the day with Jesus. Tell him your problems. He’ll help sort them out. Get up the next day and do it all again. Keep at it. And pretty soon you’ll find far greater peace and purpose in all you do. Soon you’ll be able to say: “I’m ready Lord”…and really mean it, because you will be.
Faithfully yours in Christ’s love,