29 November 2020
Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7 | Ps 80 | 1 Cor 1:3-9 | Mk 13:33-37
Welcome to another liturgical year … another Advent … a new opportunity to prepare our minds and hearts for the coming of Jesus into the world on Christmas Day. Much like parents who wait, hope, dream, and prepare for the arrival of their first child, there is an excitement that surrounds these days leading up to Christmas. But, we’re not waiting for Jesus to come and save us. He already has! Jesus lovingly showed us how to live in relationship with God and one another. And his promise of the Holy Spirit is present today, guiding us. So, what can we learn from today’s passages?
In Isaiah’s time, people turned away from God; he described them as “unclean,” “withered,” and guilt-ridden, comparing their deeds to “polluted rags.” Likewise, in today’s psalm, the words, “Lord, make us turn to you,” are filled with resignation and desperation. It’s humanity who repeatedly turns away from God, never God from humanity. Both Isaiah and the psalmist recognized this and are begging God to step in and return the chosen people into right relationship with one another and with God.
Jesus was God’s loving answer to their pleas.
In contrast to these two readings, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians offers hope. Paul, living in the light of Christ’s resurrection, assures us we are not lacking in any spiritual gift. As we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Paul reminds us that our faith will provide us with guidance and strength to endure any hardship.
Unfortunately, as we journey through life, we accumulate bad habits and insecurities that cloud our spirits and keep us from recognizing and utilizing our spiritual gifts that lay dormant.
A twentieth-century Jesuit priest, (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), scientist, and mystic, beautifully articulated the connection between the human condition and the spiritual life. In The Phenomenon of Man, he affirmed: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
We all have days when it’s hard to feel like a spiritual being. We are bombarded with so many earthly distractions, especially during this season. World catastrophes, political unrest, technological distractions, illness, family/work stressors, violence, and addictions are just a few things that clutter our minds and hearts and keep us from living fully as spiritual beings.
In today’s Gospel, Mark emphatically tells us what we must do: watch! We are neither to watch nor judge what others are doing, but rather to watch and be alert to what we are thinking, doing, feeling, giving, and taking. We can examine our actions and interactions to see if they align with those of Jesus. Do our thoughts, words, and actions reflect a spiritual existence or a human existence?
Jesus’ greatest gift while he walked among us was his loving, healing presence. Who would benefit most this season from the gift of your loving presence? If we truly want to live our earthly lives as the spiritual beings we were created to be and live as Jesus lived, what would we have to change?
Advent challenges us to be alert to the ways we turn our minds and hearts away from God and others.
Advent is probably the Church season most vulnerable to corruption and being overshadowed by everything that coincides with it. Whereas the Church starts to celebrate Christmas on the night of December 24, and continues through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, society rolls into holiday mode after Halloween and into uncompromising materialism beginning with “Black Friday.” Our cultural Christmas ends abruptly on the night of December 25 – leaving only the tree that nobody wants to take down.
Ironically, there is nothing more distracting from the mood of Advent than our culture’s preparation for Christmas.
Our readings remind us that, as of today, we are not simply getting into the commercial Christmas season but entering into a season of conversion. Take this time to clear out any earthly distractions. Unplug! Simplify! Unleash those spiritual gifts! Share them and thus bring Jesus more fully into the life of this world. While we are in the world, we are reminded we are not of the world.
If we can bear this in mind a little bit more, then there will be more space for God’s grace to enter.
Only then will we be ready for a spiritual awakening like never before.