Advent: the four Sundays before Christmas when we prepare and open our hearts for Christ's birth in the world.
The readings at Mass this first weekend encourage us to Wake Up, Stay Awake, Rejoice and Walk in the Light of the Lord! Isaiah prophesies a vision of "end times," not a bleak time of chaos, rather an opportunity for the world to be transformed for good. An end time in which we receive instruction and Wisdom from God that brings about peace between the nations, peace within all peoples.
Psalm 122 calls us to go Rejoicing, while in Romans, St. Paul reminds us that when we know Christ, we are changed forever. Everything we learn brings us closer to Him and we cannot go back to being who we were before. We are excited by this message, because the time is now; we must awaken from our sleep, rouse our drowsy hearts, throw off the darkness, and shine in the light and peace of the world.
Finally, Matthew's gospel recounts Jesus' own words commanding us to Stay Awake. Don't be caught by surprise, as the world was during the cleansing flood of Noah's era. Be awake, be prepared, be at peace - for we who know Christ in our hearts know what we must do in our lives. We know that peace starts with us. In our words. In our actions. In our love.
But the world wears at us, beats on us, entices us, lulls us to rest, to lay down, to set Christ's work aside, and to succumb to sleep again.
Practical Ways to Live the Readings
This first week of Advent, we look for practical ways to live these readings throughout the whirlwind of our busy lives. For example, Isaiah talks about climbing the mountain of God to receive His instruction. God's wisdom isn't passively given to us, but requires our purposeful action - climbing the mountain. We can live that by making time to be in the presence of God. It can be as simple as reading Scripture daily, participating in a Bible Study, reading a new book to learn more about your faith, or attending adoration or a daily Mass. Just one of these will help you stay awake and centered during Advent.
We can Rejoice through prayer by praying daily, such as saying the Our Father while going about your daily work, meditating on a decade (or more) of the Rosary, being thankful for our many blessings with our kids at the dinner table. However you pray, the Psalm 122 reminds us to pray for unity where there is discord, in our families and community. We confidently pray that Christ will bring peace to all.
When St. Paul calls us to Awaken and throw off the darkness, we pause to examine our lives and consider how, as followers of Christ, we actively live that out loud. Do we complain about circumstances or do we seek to find - or be - a solution. Seek loving answers. Extend a hand of friendship to others. Pay it forward.
Lastly, the command to Stay Awake! In every choice you make, you are choosing whether that action turns your heart toward God or away from God. When you chose to pray, you are turning toward God. When you put down your phone and pay attention to the person across from you, you are turning toward God. Jesus reminds us to be consciously aware of our daily interactions, so look for daily opportunities to turn away from a selfish action and turn instead toward a serving action, reflecting God's love which in turn brings peace.
Advent starts these weeks of preparation with a call to Stay Awake. Be mindful.
Be purposeful in...
For every day of our lives is a day closer to our salvation.