Mark 13:33-37 (1st Sunday of Advent, year B)

(Because of an extended announcement at the Masses this Sunday, I was told to “keep the homily under two minutes”. Not an easy task for me, but I gave it a shot!)

wikicommons, Liquid 2003 
How many of us here today are truly awake? Years ago, when I was an altar server, I used to doze off at Mass pretty regularly. Now this isn’t really an option for me - too many people would notice. Jesus’ message in the Gospel is simple: be awake!

Today we begin the season of Advent. Advent - with literally mean “coming” - is the time in which we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus Christ in the:
  1. Past. Jesus came into the world some 2000 years ago. During Advent we recall that Christmas celebrates the event in which God became man.
  2. Future. Jesus will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. During Advent, remembering this reality should have an impact on the way we live our lives today. Am I ready to meet Jesus when He comes again? What changes would I like to make in my life?
  3. Present. This is the part we too easily forget. Last Sunday we heard the parable of the king who separates the sheep from the goats. This parable taught us that whatever we do to the needy, we do to Jesus. Whatever we fail to do for the poor and marginalized, we fail to do for Jesus. We meet needy people each and every day. Therefore, Jesus comes to us each and every day.

Distraction keeps us from recognizing the presence of Christ in the needy that we daily encounter. We are asleep and we miss the coming of Jesus. Usually this slumber of distraction is not consciously induced, it sort of just happens. We can get so preoccupied in our work or school that we are blinded to the presence of Jesus in those who surround us. It is easy to get so immersed in our phones and computers that we become oblivious to other flesh and blood human beings. People in the same home begin communicating via text messages. Next time you ride the bus or skytrain, see if you can find five people who are not on their phones and are having an actual conversation with their neighbour. Even while at Mass we get distracted. We can be thinking so much about what is for lunch that we ignore the presence of Christ in the Eucharist who gives Himself as the ultimate meal. We are asleep and missing the simple, daily ways in which Jesus comes into our lives through those we encounter.

What we need is some kind of spiritual coffee. I’m sure that most of of start our day with a cup of coffee. Personally, it is difficult to face the day without it! I have a very simple suggestion for how we can try to enact Jesus’ command to “stay awake”. Each morning when you take the first sip of your coffee (or tea, or chocolate milk, or whatever) make this simple prayer: “Lord, help me to be spiritually awake today so that I do not miss the ways you enter my life”. Advent is here; it’s time to wake up!

(Ok, so maybe that’s longer than two minutes. I tried!)