The Holy Season of Advent

by PETER JOHN CAMERON, O.P.

Dec. 1, 1996

First Sunday of Advent

Mk 13, 33-37

AS WE AWAIT His coming at Christmas, this first Sunday of Advent, Jesus recounts a story about a man leaving home to travel abroad, leaving his servants behind, unsure when he'll return. In our preparation for the birth of Jesus, we do “know when the appointed time will come”—Dec. 25. But our knowledge of the historical trappings of the Incarnation in no way dispenses us from the kind of watchfulness and vigilance the Lord asks of us today.

He refers to sleeping in order to symbolize the evil of being ill-prepared and inattentive to the master's return. The great Advent virtue is wakefulness: We are to be fully conscious in every respect. And, first of all, our attentiveness must first be directed to the instructions the at today's Mass. They hold the clue as to how our attentiveness prepares us to receive the Master and participate fully in His life, death, and resurrection.

Today's reading appears in Mark's Gospel just immediately before chapter 14 that begins the passion narrative. That is to say, the passage provided by the liturgy to prepare us for the birth of Jesus was originally written by the Evangelist to prepare us for the death of Jesus. Indeed, the two objectives are not opposed. For the Church reminds us that everything that Jesus did, from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter. These two great mysteries taken together complete and perfect our personal participation in the saving actions of Jesus Christ.

And, as we prepare for the Lord's coming, our preparation does not cease once he arrives. The presence of Jesus Christ in our midst only further emboldens us to be one with him in his Passion. That's why Jesus gives us a special reminder about the possible times the master in the parable might appear. He may come at dusk, as he does at the Last Supper. He may come at midnight, as he does in the Garden of Gethsemane when he is handed over by his betrayer. He may come when the cock crowsal reminder about the possi him. Or he may come at early dawn—the time of the Resurrection.

Unlike the disciples sleeping in Gethsemane while Jesus experiences his agony, we must remain wide awake this Advent, attentive to his presence, praying in his company, willing even to suffer with him. We stay on guard against laxity, laziness, sinfulness, and apathy. And we know that we will be successful in our efforts to be watchful and awake. For the Master has left us, his servants, “in charge.” He has blessed us with the grace, the desire, and the ability to seek him, to wait for him, to find him, and to respond to Him in a way that exceeds our natural capacities. That supernatural capacity to welcome and to embrace the Master—in the way that he deserves—is the great grace and privilege of this holy season of Advent.

Father Cameron teaches homiletics at St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y.