Today’s Gospel says loudly and clearly: don't take things for granted. We take so much for granted, don't we? We take one another for granted. We take God and his gifts to us for granted. We take our freedoms and opportunities for granted. We’ve taken tomorrow for granted, without a second thought.
Advent, beginning this Sunday, invites us to reflect on the threefold coming of Jesus. Jesus came to us centuries ago as the Word made flesh, the Christ-child; he comes to us today sacramentally and mystically in the signs of bread and wine; and he will come again triumphantly at the end of time.
In Thornton Wilder’s classic play, “Our Town,” a father said quietly to his teenage son something like this: “In the yard I saw something I didn't like. I saw your mother chopping wood. That's your job, but you hadn't done it. She needed the wood, but she didn't ask you. Your mother cooks your meals, washes your clothes, cleans up after you. But she's not your servant. She's your mother.” The teen began to get a bit teary-eyed with remorse, and his father lovingly concluded by saying, “I knew I'd only have to mention it to you.”
It's easy to imagine God saying to each of us, “I saw your sisters and brothers in need of you. Some went without what they needed.” And Jesus adds, “I knew I'd only have to mention it to you.”
How might we keep the meaning of Advent alive? Prepare for his coming? Some families create an advent wreath and light candles and pray for the coming anew of the Messiah into their lives. Other families make a Jesse or genealogy tree to re-experience the biblical story of our salvation. Still others set up a nativity scene and family members share the joy of Christmas or God-with-us, Emmanuel. These are but a few family customs that help us to be grateful for what we are about to receive. In the larger community, we might prepare for Advent by engaging in volunteer service activities.
The Gospel according to Mark challenges us to always be alert and watchful for the Lord’s coming. To always behave in a manner worthy of our calling as sons and daughters of God.
We often pray for God to make things right for us. Yet God can seem silent, hidden from our eyes. But is God silent, hidden? We profess that God is in our midst. All around us! In nature, in people, in our beloved pets. God is with us. God is especially in the word proclaimed and the sacraments celebrated.
Let us pray this Advent season that the Spirit of God, who overshadowed the Virgin Mary and brought forth the Word made flesh, will reenergize us: to become better instruments of faith in God, of hope in eternal life, and of love of one another; better channels of forgiveness, compassion, truth, and fairness; and better examples of hospitality, service, and responsibility until Jesus Christ comes again. Amen.