1st Sunday of Advent 2023

Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1, 3-8     1 Corinthians 1:3-9     Mark 13:33-37

Advent W1The Church’s Liturgical season of Advent can be a bit confusing! It is about the Present, the Past and the Future.  Because it marks the beginning of the liturgical year it is about the present time.  It also commemorates and reminds us of the past, the events of the History of Salvation and directs us towards the future and the Second coming of Christ.  Our prayer and our liturgy during Advent is preparation for the coming of Christ and yet it is his Incarnation which is already the very basis of our Faith.  Our cry during this time is ‘O come Emmanuel’ and yet we have been promised that ‘I am with you all days ….’  The truth is, as the theologian Karl Rahner SJ said, that “God comes in our time and makes it eternal”.

The Gospel today warns us to “Stay Awake” to Watch, to be Alert and to Notice the signs around us of the presence of the Lord and the imminence of his coming into our personal lives. What prevents us from noticing the presence of Lord?  We have become too sophisticated, incredulous and our pride prevents us from asking ‘why’ or ‘how’ or ‘when’ in simple and innocent way of a child.

The poet Patrick Kavanagh in his acclaimed poem ‘Advent’ realises that “we have tested and tasted too much”.  We think that we know it all.  We have done away with the need to “Wonder” at the miracles and mysteries of life. A child spends much time ‘wondering’ about even the most mundane things and events.  Kavanagh catches the child wondering at ‘the tedious talking of an old fool’ or ‘the cart tracks’ and ‘old stables’ of the farmyard. This wondering is the Contemplation of the child!

Advent calls on us to Contemplate also.  Our Contemplation or wondering might lead us to consider how wonderfully we have been formed by the master Potter mentioned by Isaiah in the 1st reading of today’s Mass.  Despite our sinfulness and unfaithfulness we are the work of the hands of the Father, made in the image and likeness of God. In our 2nd Reading today, Saint Paul shows us the importance of the virtue of thankfulness.  It is indeed the parent of all virtue.  Our contemplation during this time of Advent will lead us into what is only a humble effort to return thanks to God.

In a sense we have been left to be ‘doorkeepers’ of the Lord’s house until he comes again.  The Lord, in his words today, reminds us of our duties towards each other in welcoming and caring for each other.  It may be that in our feeding or clothing or visiting of those in need (cf Last Sunday’s Gospel Matt 32:31-46) that we will notice the Lord among us. 

The mystery that we are watching for is no longer a mystery. Our spirituality of Advent is one of being awake, of being alert to the manifestation of that mystery and allowing ourselves to wonder deeply, to contemplate, how great is the God who comes among us to be Emmanuel.