One day, while filing away papers, the secretary of President John F. Kennedy found this note, written in the president’s own hand. It read: “I know there is a God—and I see a storm coming. If He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready.” Our Lord’s warning this weekend to be ready, and President Kennedy’s readiness to serve, invite me to ask: “How ready am I to put myself at God’s service for whatever God may ask me to do?”
Today begins Advent: a new season and a new Liturgical Year. It is a short season, often cut off from a full four weeks by the secular calendar. It is as if there’s such a thing as “Lent Lite,” since it asks us to do penance and fast in preparation for the great Feast of Christ- mas.
Of course, one nod to the world around us and the media that frame it, and you would believe that this is the season for shopping, decorating, and even baking. None of those is bad in itself. But if any of it robs us of some quiet time for reflection and prayer, then we have wasted Advent time.
In fact, this First Sunday of the season traditionally pulls us away from thoughts about the annual celebration of Christ’s first coming to make us reflect on His second one. That is very much an unknown entity, even though it is inevitable.
The whole point of Advent is not to exclude our pre-Christmas fun, but to remind us of life’s serious side. It’s time to get ready for the next life as President Kennedy believed himself to be.
Nor does Advent ask us to pretend that Christ has not already come to us. It is rather telling us that Christ wants to come closer to us. One day in the unknown future, framed in the Book of Revelation as one of fire raging and trum- pets blaring, Jesus will come back as He promised He would, to judge us all and decide our eternal fate.
In the meantime, we are asked to remember the fact of His wanting to come closer to us. In fact, we should desire to be one of His points of entry into the world, always being attentive to what’s coming, rather than just to opt for a set- tled and comfortable life. This means that we actually facilitate the coming of God’s world into our own that began some 2,000 years ago with Christ. Now each of us has a part to play. In other words, each of us must so live that it doesn’t matter when the end comes because our whole life is a preparation for it.
In this context, it is remarkable what insight comes to us by way of that twenty-something Little Flower who is Saint Therese of Lisieux. Once she wrote this: “Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven, the only one goal of our labors.”
God love you and give you His Advent peace!
Reading I: Isaiah 63: 16-17, 19; 64: 2-7
The prophet quotes a psalmist who cries out like a despairing man, and implores God’s intervention. He admits that God has abandoned the sinner to his guilt.
Reading II: I Corinthians 1: 3-9
Paul declares himself to be an authentic apostle by virtue of his calling. Using his regular salutation signifies God’s goodness and His many gifts. He thanks God especially for His gifts to the Corinthian community.
The Gospel: Mark 13: 33-37
“Not knowing the day nor the hour” is Mark’s reason for exhorting vigilance. Jesus expands His meaning to go past the pending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple to include all Jews and Jewish Christians.