My brothers and sisters,1
I hope you all had a beautiful Thanksgiving. I know it was challenging for all of us this year.
But I was thinking that these days are especially important for us — it’s especially important these days for us to be more aware of our belief in the spiritual reality of the Communion of Saints. You can see here, beautifully in our Cathedral.
Because as we were not able to be together as usual, you have to remember that in Christ, we are one, joined in his Spirit in the Mystical Body of his Church. We have communion with him and with one another in his Body and Blood.
So let’s continue to give thanks to God for the reality of being together as a communion of Saints.
And today, we begin a “new year.” As we know, with this first Sunday of Advent, we start the new liturgical year of the Church.
And as Pope Francis said this morning, “Advent, which prepares us for Christmas … it is a time of expectation and a time of hope.”
We should reflect on that during this time. A time of expectation and a time of hope.
And our readings today call us to see “another side” of reality, a deeper perspective, the truth of what is really right before our eyes.
“God is faithful!” We just heard that simple statement at the end of the second reading. For St. Paul, that is the real truth about creation.
He tells us: “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
My brothers and sisters, this is what Advent announces. The faithfulness of God. The gift that He offers in sending his only Son into the world.
God is forever faithful. And that’s the whole truth about “reality.” And I think that is what we need to keep rediscovering through the reading of sacred Scripture.
The Bible — the Old and New Testaments — is one long story of God’s love for the human race that he created. It’s one long story of his mercy, his faithfulness to his children.
We hear that story today in the first reading of today’s Mass from the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah tells us today that God is our Father. That out of love, he created us. Like an artist. “We are all the work of your hands,” Isaiah tells us.
But the prophet Isaiah also tells us that in giving us freedom, God has allowed us to stray from his ways, to harden our hearts.
This is the story of the human race, since the original sin of Adam and Eve. And if we are honest, we know this story is true for each one of us.
It is easy to turn away from God, to push him into the background. To give many other things priority before him.
And of course, we can understand how that happens. We have so many anxieties, so many responsibilities. And it is getting even harder now, with all the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Prophet Isaiah, in today’s first reading, talks about being “mindful” of God. He talks about doing what is right, about serving God in everything we do.
So as we start this Advent season, I think it would be good if we ask ourselves: Is that how we are living? Are we really aware of God’s presence? Do we see him working in the world? Do we feel his love and mercy in our lives?
And Jesus cries out in the Gospel today, “Be watchful! Be alert! … What I say to you, I say to all, ‘Watch!’”
And I was thinking, my dear brothers and sisters, that’s not a warning. It’s an invitation!
Jesus is telling us today: Watch and you will be surprised at what you see! You will see things you have never noticed before.
Watch and you will see! All the hidden beauty. All the little acts of kindness. All the tender mercies that God is sending our way at every moment in every day.
Be alert! and we will become aware of all the hidden ways that God is still working in the world. Watch! And we will see — all the beautiful ways that He is working out his plan of love in our lives.
So my dear brothers and sisters, Advent is about getting ready for our Lord to come. But it is also a reminder that he has already come. He has already entered into the reality of our human existence and he is still with us.
Advent reminds us that Jesus is always arriving. Yes, in the people he sends into our lives. In the challenges we face every day. In the burdens we carry. Even in our sufferings.
And Advent reminds us that God is faithful! His love for us is true.
So let us never doubt it. This is why he sent his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into the world in the first place. To share our sufferings, to walk with us and strengthen us.
God is faithful!
This Advent, let’s ask for the grace to renew our commitment to find time to pray and to do it more personally. The grace to talk to Jesus all the time. Let’s ask Him to show his face to us, to reveal the many ways that he is present in our lives.
Let us also renew our desire to find time to read and reflect on the Word of God. You all remember that the Church gives us readings for every day of the year.
And it just takes a few minutes for us to open our hearts to his Word. Reading every day’s Gospel and reflecting on it. Doing that every day, it really helps us to be alert to God’s hidden presence everywhere in our lives.
Those are a couple of practical things that we can do to follow our Lord’s command — for us to be alert, to be watchful.
So, let’s do it this Advent. Let’s be “on the look-out” for God. He is all around us! He is with us. If we watch for him, if we stay alert — we will see his love everywhere around us.
Ands we begin this journey these four weeks of Advent toward the birth of our Savior, let us stay close to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. May she help us this Advent to come to a new awareness of the presence of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in our lives!
1. Readings: Isa. 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; Ps. 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37.