Reflection on the First Sunday of Advent
Today, on this first Sunday of Advent, our readings offer us a vision and a challenge to “wake up!” I am reminded of my days as a student at Bethlehem Academy back in the 1940s when Sister Marie O’Flaherty would come to wake us up at 6 o’clock in the morning. She would walk very slowly all the way to the end of the long dormitory and back ringing her despicable little bell, which she didn’t even need to ring in the first place because we all heard her come in the door. I found her very annoying! I always find it annoying when I’m told I need to wake up. When I’m nudged during a talk, I usually deny that I was asleep because truthfully, I didn’t think I was. It’s easier for me to notice when you’re nodding than it is to realize that I’m doing it. So Advent is a good time for all of us to take a look at the quality of our spiritual wakefulness. Waking up isn’t all that easy.
In a commentary on Advent, Merton reminds us that Advent is not about waiting for God. It’s about waking up and recognizing the fact that God is present among us in the here and now. Our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is and not as we think it ought to be. Advent is a celebration of hope.
Teilhard tells us exactly where to look for the presence of God. “Within the universe, the spirit of creative energy awaits us, ready to work in us a transformation beyond anything that the human eye has seen or ear has heard. Who can say what God would fashion out of us if, trusting in his word, we surrendered ourselves to his providence. Let us then, for love of our Creator and of the universe, throw ourselves fearlessly into the crucible of the world of tomorrow.” Our responsorial psalm and second reading invite us to do so in a spirit of rejoicing that we are in the company of those who treasure the gifts of peace and goodness and are working to throw off the burdens of darkness while seeking to put on the armor of light. Sounds like working for justice and acting for peace.
The Gospel reminds us that it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of everyday affairs and get distracted just like the people did in the days of Noah. We are once again cautioned to stay awake. Our native American brothers and sisters teach us that coming to a state of spiritual wakefulness is primarily a matter of traveling the 18 inches from the head to the heart in the blending of spirit and intent. It all boils down to a deepening awareness that all people and all of creation are connected in the mystery of the love of our Creator and that our survival and our happiness depend on our willingness to surrender ego and seek to live in harmony with one another and all of creation.
I would like to end on a practical note with an Advent checklist I found which invites us to go about it by striving each day:
- To make a difference, not in some imaginary tomorrow of perfection, but in the confusion of now.
- To live out of our brokenness and to work toward healing.
- To make our lives an invitation for others to live more fully, more joyfully and more freely.
- To see and to encourage in others what they often do not recognize as strengths in themselves.
- To have a care for the mysteries, the troubles and even the darkness of others, knowing that in some cases, they have traveled or are traveling distances we have not had to go.
- And finally, in the presence of pain, darkness and confusion, to try to remember that, as one of my AA friends constantly reminds me, “Love is the answer. What is the question?”