Stay Awake! – The First Sunday of Advent

“Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” – Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

Today begins the Church’s holy season of Advent, a time of delightful and eager waiting.  Many Catholics and other Christians think Advent is just a time of preparation for Christmas, but this is only partly true.  The last seven days of Advent are focused on preparation for the Lord’s first coming as a babe in Bethlehem, but until then, we are preparing ourselves in a special way for the glorious Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Notice the color of vestments: purple.  It is the color of kings’ and queens’ robes in the ancient world.  It indicates that we wait patiently for Christ the King of kings, who rules all creation.  It is also the color of a night sky (indicative by the shortness of days this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere).  Notice the increased sobriety of the musical selections during Mass and the bareness of the sanctuary (no flowering plants adorn the altar).  Like Lent, we simplify during this holy time of preparation.

Listen closely to the readings during the Liturgy of the Word (and try not to “zone out”!).  They do not refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Archangel Gabriel, nor to the birth of the Savior.  Rather, they speak of what is to happen during the “end times” and how we should be found when Christ comes in glory.  The prophet Isaiah is speaking of the coming judgment of our God (Isaiah 2:4) and St. Paul is exhorting us to rid ourselves of “works of darkness” (Romans 13:12).  We are told by Christ, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).

So, what does “stay awake” mean?  Jesus gives the example of people  having meals, getting married, men plowing in the field, women grinding at the mill — folks doing normal things, going about their everyday lives (Matthew 24:37-42).  The difference is that some of them are sanctifying their daily lives and some are not.  Therefore, if upon His glorious return Jesus finds us sanctifying our days with prayer and living His commandments, He will judge us worthy of Himself; if not, He will leave us to eternal punishment.  However, He knows how we humans can be.  We get busy with earthly affairs – with our jobs, our classes, our pastoral work, our hobbies and entertainment – and then we do not have time for God.  When we are not making time for the One who gave us life, how can we expect Him to think we love Him and are ready for His glorious return.  Think about it: We show people that we love them by making time for them; so, why would we ever think of cutting out our time with God?  And yet we do it all the time.  As St. Paul says, we have to wake from sleep – the sleep of our own spiritual complacency – and we need to make this time holy!  If you have been “slacking” in prayer, then get back into it.  You may not have another chance!  If you have been “slacking” in your moral life in Christ, make a good confession this Advent.  You may not have another chance!  And most importantly, if you have been giving yourself over to distractions during the Mass, ask for God’s grace to participate fully and actively, and to receive Jesus Christ worthily.

You may not have another chance!

– Reflection by Fr. Nolan Lowry, STL, pastor of St. Edward Parish in Athens, Texas.


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