Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
It was sure nice to not have to worry about whether LSU would pull out a win this weekend. As I was thinking about that and praying with the readings for this weekend I was reminded of the time when I was around 12 or 13 years old I guess. My mom and stepdad decided they could trust me to stay at the house by myself while they went to go watch the Tigers play. So before they left, mom laid down the ground rules: don’t go swimming, don’t go anywhere, and don’t invite anyone over but Stephen, my best friend who she figured she could trust me to be around. I agreed and they left for the game. Shortly after they left, I looked at my watch and figured I’d have a good 5 hours until they got back. So, I did what most young men that age would have done: I called up Stephen and told him to bring his swimsuit over. We went swimming for a bit and afterward decided to hop on our bikes and ride around for a bit. We were cruising all around his neighborhood when we rode by his house and his mom was in the front yard waving us down. As we got close she called out and said, “Brent! Your mom said you need to go home!” I very slowly peddled my bike back to the house, knowing good and well what was waiting for me.
The obvious thing is that I figured I had plenty of time to do what I wanted, clean up the evidence of my disobedience, and be in the clear. Not for a minute did I think something might bring my parents home earlier than I had figured. And that is the point the Lord is speaking to us as we gather to begin this Advent season: that we must be prepared at all times for His coming, not caught off guard. You don’t have to know anything about the Lord or the Scriptures in order to get that idea from the Gospel passage we just heard. In the span of a few sentences the Lord tells us: “Be watchful! Be alert! Watch, therefore! You know not the hour! Watch!” In various ways He drives home the point of preparedness for His coming.
In reflecting on that aspect of the Lord coming, it struck me how often we pray for that very thing to happen. Every time we pray the Our Father we pray “Thy kingdom come” partly in expectation of the Lord’s return in glory. We say it every Mass, it’s used in nearly every ritual of the Church, we include it in most of our rosaries and chaplets, and when we get put on the spot to pray a spontaneous public prayer there is no safer bet than mumbling something and concluding with “Our Father” and having everyone join in. We pray it often, but I was thinking to myself what I would do if I prayed “Thy kingdom come” and it actually happened? The prophet Isaiah uses vivid imagery to describe this point: “return for the sake of your servants…rend the heavens and come down”. What if in the midst of my prayer the skies opened up and I beheld the Lord in His glory? Am I ready for that? Am I prepared for that? Are you prepared for that?
Be watchful. Be alert. Watch.
I think there are, here, two important things to note. First, the continuous waiting for the Lord’s return isn’t just sitting in prayer all day looking holy for when He comes. It’s about living every moment of our lives with a purity of heart that proves we’re ready. If I had stayed at home when my parents left for the game, I could have watched tv, played video games, played guitar, read a book, or any number of things, I would have still been ready. And that is the invitation from the Lord: to content ourselves in whatever we do with a mindset that Christ may come at any moment.
The second things worth noting is that the preparation isn’t one of fear or anxiety. Fear and undue anxiety are from the evil one. The waiting we are called to live is one of joy, much like a little child who excitedly runs to greet a parent at the door when they return home from a trip or a long day at work with arms outstretched saying “Mommy! Daddy!” Eager, hopefully expectancy. Watching. Waiting. Alert.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Come, O Come, Emmanuel.