“You be the lookout,” I told my little brother. “Yell the second you see the car!”
My parents had gone for the day, leaving me in charge. And now we were scrambling to finish our chores and get the house in order before they returned, bringing our cousins with them. Only when the last thing was in its place and the table set for dinner did I begin to relax … but my brother kept his vigil. Who knew when they’d be back? Whenever they came, whatever we might be doing at the time, we would be ready.
Today, cell phones and texting make that kind of waiting almost obsolete. Which is too bad, because we need the practice. The Lord has given us each our tasks and in the gospel today, the first Sunday of Advent, he tells his disciples:
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’
Five times he says it, in four short verses. Three times with exclamation marks. Did you hear me? Don’t miss this! he seems to be saying. He’s not going to text or instant message us; but he promises to come … so be alert; be ready to receive him.
Sometimes it can feel as though Jesus will never come, either at the end of time or into our lives when we are calling him. We can get like a watchman: sleepy because it’s been a long day already. Or discouraged by the darkness around us. Or distracted by the cares of life.
Maybe he gave us these instructions to help with that. Be alert! Use the hour and the darkness to your advantage. Tune all your senses so you’re prepared to handle danger and distractions. What makes you “sleepy”? What sins dull your awareness? What things (even good things) distract you from worship and the work he has given you to do?
When you’re on the lookout, your attention is on the person you’re waiting for. Keep at it, and you’ll find yourself filled with expectation and hope. You’ll do the tasks before you with joy because you’re getting ready for him.
As we enter Advent, listen to Jesus: Watch! Be on the lookout! Draw close to him in prayer, through Scripture and the Sacraments. Then live each day in preparation for life with him: forgiving, loving, helping others … in such a way that it doesn’t matter when he comes. You will be ready.
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Take the readings to heart
Be watchful this week by continuing to meditate on the readings of the first Sunday of Advent. Download the reading checklist and instructions at this link:
Here are a few additional things to consider as you read:
First reading (Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)
- What thought begins and ends the reading?
- How does it provide a frame for the whole passage and impact the reading?
Responsorial Psalm (80)
- List all the things the psalmist asks of God
- On what basis can he ask them?
Second reading (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)
- What gifts does it say the Lord has given us to use as we wait for him?
Gospel (Mark 13:33-37)
- How many ways does Jesus say we are to watch for him? (Describe them)
- What does the parable of the gatekeeper and servants add to your understanding of his instructions?
God bless you — and make you alert and watchful — as you read his Word!
© 2020 Sarah Christmyer