Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all, ‘Watch!’ ” (Mk 13:33-36)
Welcome to the season of great expectations. This Thanksgiving weekend, it is estimated that 141 million people will do some form of holiday shopping. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, many stores are enticing consumers with the expectation of finding the latest gadget at discount prices. In some places, long lines are formed around retailers eagerly awaiting their opening in anticipation of finding value bargains. Last year, I recall seeing an interview with a young man who was the last one to purchase the newest technology before it sold out. The joy that radiated from his face glowed as he described his adventure to procure his treasure, and how he resisted offers to sell it at double the price. He arrived early, kept his focus and rejoiced in his success.
The season of Advent is also a time of great expectation. When we think about Advent expectations, we instinctively consider the historical nativity of the Word made flesh in a cave at Bethlehem. However, the expectation of Advent is twofold. First, we anticipate the parousia (Greek for “advent”), the second coming of Christ in glory to judge the world. In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mk 13:33-36) Jesus’ admonition to be alert to his second coming is the basis of our belief in Him as our King and the foundation of our Advent joy.
Second, between the historical and future comings, there is the preparing for the coming of Christ in our minds and hearts in a personal way. In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies the advent of the promised Messiah. This promise shaped (and continues to shape) the core of the Jewish faith: God’s promise of a Redeemer directs and focuses all Jewish worship, ritual and covenant. This is why the Old Testament (or Hebrew Scriptures) is still relevant for us as Catholics. Just as Moses and the prophets yearned to see the day of the Messiah, so too, we eagerly wait for the coming of Christ both now and in the future. By looking to the heroes and saints of the past, we learn how to live in the present and prepare for the future. This expectation opens our hearts to receive the gifts God has for us. For this reason, Isaiah says, “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.” (Is 64:3)
As we begin our Advent journey together, we are invited to consider our expectations. If we’re not expecting Christ to come to us this season, chances are we’ll miss out on His presence in the midst of the hustle and bustle of these holidays. One practical way to cultivate a sense of Advent expectation is to make use of the Advent booklets that we offer here at St. Dominic’s. By taking six minutes a day in prayerful reflection, our hearts and minds are open and ready to receive the gift of Christ’s presence in our lives. May this Advent season be a time of great expectation as Christ comes to birth in our lives.
~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.