During this last week of the Church’s liturgical year many of the gospel readings have included Our Lord’s warnings about the coming day of judgement. And many of the first readings have included visions from the Book of Revelation about the age to come. Together, these have been a pathway leading us to the Season of Advent, which begins tomorrow. As we stand on the threshold of Advent, and a new liturgical year, today’s gospel calls us to be vigilant and to stand firm.
It’s very easy, even in a religious community, to lose sight of God. Life can be so demanding and so distracting preparing for this, that and the other. There’s always a dangerous tendency to create our own little comfort zone within the greater scheme of things, which only really gives us a false sense of security. The more we withdraw from the common goals of the community and do our own thing, the more we lose our way and become disoriented and discouraged. As the old liturgical year gives way to the new, Our Lord encourages us to persevere in our vocation, and to remember why we came here in the first place, and not to let our hearts grow drowsy, but to keep watchful and vigilant.
I’ve always thought the Messianic prophets Simeon and Anna are inspiring Advent models for us. Like sentries at the post waiting for the coming of the dawn, they kept looking for the Messiah. They patiently waited for the fulfilment of God’s promises. They stayed attentive to the Holy Spirit because they were so eager to see God’s salvation. And their watching enabled them to recognise that salvation when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple. Then God’s ways became their ways, and his thoughts became their thoughts.
Let us greet this coming Advent season of grace with determination, confidence, and perseverance. Let’s remember that we are looking forward both to Our Lord’s coming as an infant on Christmas Day and his final return at the end of time, when he will bring us fully into his kingdom. The former Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “Advent is above all the season of hope in which believers in Christ are invited to remain in watchful and active waiting, nourished by prayer and by the effective commitment to love.” May our observance of Advent be just that.