December 6, 2023

First Sunday of Advent 12/3/23

Fr. David Brown

When I was a boy, Christmas meant all sorts of things, not least of which was that my favorite aunt would be coming to visit, as she always did at Christmas. She was an amazing woman. She was a nurse, and during the Second World War she had captured a Japanese soldier singlehandedly using nothing more than a hypodermic needle to encourage him to surrender quietly. She had traveled all over the world, and in my younger years, she lived in that place which, to a ten-year-old boy, was the most exotic of places, New York City.

On the day she was supposed to arrive for her visit, my younger brother and I would spend most of the day with our noses pressed literally against the windowpane, waiting for her to show up. And when she did, our excitement knew no bounds.

Most of us find waiting hard to do in our day-to-day lives. We try to eliminate as much waiting as we can. We eat fast food. We look for express lanes at the grocery store or Wal-Mart. We have to have the latest and fastest Internet connection and gadgets to go with it. And I’ve noticed lately on Interstate 77, even when the traffic is moving as fast as it can in the normal lanes, people will drive in the express lanes, which they have to pay for. As used to speed as we are, waiting for the return of a long expected loved one can seem impossibly long, as it did for me and my brother.

But it is exactly this kind of waiting of which Jesus asks of us in today’s Gospel as we wait for his return. This time of waiting, however, is not the idle biding of time or the maintaining of the status quo. In the parable at the end of the Gospel this morning, the person leaving on a trip puts his servants in charge of his affairs, and each one has his or her work to do, especially the gatekeeper, who is warned to be watchful.

So it is with each of us. Christ has returned to the Father, but he has put us in charge of his affairs here on Earth. Each of us has our work to do, but we can’t get so caught up in it that we forget to keep an eye out for Christ’s return. We might ask ourselves, “What is the work that I’m supposed to be doing?”

Obviously, the answer is going to be different for different people, But Saint Paul gives us a clue in today’s second reading when he tells us that we have been enriched in every way and that we are not lacking in any spiritual gift. Therefore, our job then is to put these gifts to work in the service of God’s kingdom, much like the two wise men in the Gospel last Sunday who put their master’s money to work while he was gone.

But in the long run, we should be like the Desert Father, who was asked by one of his disciples, “Abba, what has God’s wisdom taught you? Did you become divine?”

“Not at all.”

“Did you become a saint?”

“No, as you can clearly see.”

“What then?”

 “I became awake.”

We too must become awake. We must become aware of the ways in which God has already and continues to enter our lives.

And that will help us to be awake and ready for Christ’s return. In the end, however, it is not we but God who is faithful and watchful. As Saint Paul tells the Corinthians, it is God who shepherds us with gentle strength. It is God who tenderly cares for us as a vinedresser cares for his vineyard. It is God who can mold us into watchful and hopeful disciples, open to waiting.

We are at the beginning of a new liturgical year. The season of Advent is a time to carve out space in these busiest of days to rejoice in the truly extraordinary gift of Emmanuel, God with us. It is a time to let ourselves be remolded. It is a season to wait in hopeful anticipation of Christ’s return, so that when he comes, our joy may know no bounds, and our faith may not be disappointed.

Get in Touch

Whether you have questions about discernment and vocations or want general information about Belmont Abbey, we invite you to reach out and ask!