Season of Advent:
The Season of Advent is a time of faith-filled “Watching and Waiting” and “Praying and Rejoicing”. We are invited to consider the weeks of preparation for Christmas as opportunities for nurturing a spirituality of watching and waiting in expectation – not a passive, inactive, idle and unimaginative presence in space and time – but a dynamic, active and positively imaginative waiting – a spiritual posture of waiting and longing for Christ, praying and preparing for his ultimate appearance among us – a spirituality of hope, of joy and simple and pure optimism about us and the world around us.
The Scripture readings of the four Sundays of Advent call us to “Watch, Wait, Pray and Rejoice”. We want to consider these as our themes of reflection during this season. Dynamic watching and waiting, praying and rejoicing are to characterize all our Advent days and nights because we wait for Jesus, the incarnation of God’s all-embracing, steadfast, unconditional, unconquerable, everlasting and ever faithful love. Jesus came to liberate all people from all forms of enslavement: sickness, poverty, injustice, corruption, inequality and so on. Jesus, in words and deeds, taught us that salvation and liberation are not otherworldly realities – they are to shape and form and transform our lives here and now.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'” (Mark 13:33-37)
To be watchful is to be attentive, to be vigilant, to be awake, to be alert! It is like the presence of the shepherd to the sheep – Alert, Awake, Attentive, Vigilant, Caring, Seeking, Self-sacrificing (John 10; Psalm 23). The shepherd keeps vigil, stays alert and awake and attentive. The shepherd is attentive to the needs of the sheep, to the dangers around, to the thieves or the wild animals that are ready to strike, to the straying sheep and all else that concerns the sheep.
So the Psalmist could sing: “I shall never be in want…I will never be afraid and only blessings will come to me…because the Lord is my shepherd” and He is vigilant… He is watchful!
No one can be prayerfully active and actively prayerful in bringing the Good News without being attentive, vigilant…watchful!
Watchfulness is a healthy disposition which nurtures a culture of meaningful relationship, genuine caring for one another that includes a certain openness of life between members in families and communities, where members discipline, instruct, serve, forgive, show compassion, mourn and rejoice with one another.
It takes time to consider the diverse needs of individual members in your care. And I’ve learned that taking that time is essential to faithfully watching over those entrusted to our care and preserving and maintaining the health of the community.
Our families, communities and churches are healthy when we are watchful. We must be watchful, be attentive to who we are, to what we are called to do and to our own needs, feelings, weaknesses, etc. We must also be watchful of others, be attentive to all they are.
It takes watchfulness to care well for those entrusted to our care; to teach sound doctrine, healthy values and morals; develop noble friendships and relationships. Conscious, deliberate and extensive “watching” is necessary to care well for those entrusted to our care.
It’s also important to watch our conduct and our doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16). This is particularly true of parents, teachers and pastors. But it is also true for every Christian who is involved in helping the members of family and community to watch their lives, their doctrine, their ethical and moral conduct, their faith and prayer life……
Be watchful on your journey! Look more attentively, closely and deeply on your journey….look at where your heart has been and where it is now. Has it been and is it in a good place, a peaceful place, a safe place, a quiet place? Be watchful and keep it in a good place!
Be watchful of places and people and situations that blessed you, affirmed you, enriched you, encouraged you and empowered you. And be watchful of the places and people and situations that have not been healthy and are still not healthy…….
Be watchful of places and people and situations that challenged you, tested you, discouraged you, and may be, even hurt you……Be attentive to what those experiences have taught you.
Be watchful of roadblocks, detours or dead ends during your journey. Be watchful of places where you felt stuck or lost or the times you felt like moving backwards.
Be watchful and mindful of old destructive behaviors, negative patterns of thinking or abusive situations…… they may be dead ends and closed roads for your personal growth.
Be watchful of whatever is going on in your life. You may have been on the move…..on the
fast-moving, busy highways…in a hurry to get somewhere or accomplish something….may be just a little too much going on. Be watchful!
Pay attention! You may have heard this from your parents or from your teachers. Maybe you’ve heard it from the policeman who just pulled you over. Maybe you are half-asleep during the sermon. Maybe you are thinking about something else when someone is trying to share important things about his/her life.
Maybe you are just going through the motions and have missed the moments of grace that God has put in front of you because you were not paying attention.
Pay attention to your desires. We have all kinds of desires. Pay attention to the desires that need to be purified or abandoned or carefully and tenderly taken care of.
Pay attention to those wonderful desires that are there but have not been acted upon and see what you would like to do to respond to those desires.
It takes Vigilance to enable others to discover and correct their mistakes……to help others watch their lives and their conduct.
Be attentive to what is important and what is trivial, what needs action now and what is not really all that urgent.
It takes watchfulness to recognize the poor, the disadvantaged, the suffering, the lonely and the marginalized and attend to their needs. The poor are to be served with genuine love and practical considerations. The quality of discipleship depends on it.
It takes real discipline to “attend to” – take note of – ordinary things. For most of us, it takes deliberate effort to be attentive. Major happenings like birth, moving, promotion, financial loss, death, etc. force themselves on our consciousness. The ordinary realities of life simply pass by; they just go by or we just go by them. Morning comes and evening comes, one day passes.
Pay attention…notice the “moments of grace” in your life. These moments are not just something that happens to you…they are what you can offer someone else.
Be attentive…be Vigilant…Be present to the moment!
Be present to others! Be present to yourself!
Be present to God and God’s way for you!
Take a moment and pray….
Lord, teach me to be attentive, to be watchful, to be vigilant,
Help me to be alert, awake and sensitive to the needs of others,
Help me to care and care deeply, intensely and personally,
Empower me to respond with tenderness and compassion,
Teach me to look out for other’s needs rather than my own…….
Fr. Gus Tharappel, msfs