Monday, December 1, 2014

Watching and Preparing

Isn't surprising that the Lord's opening word of the Advent season is "Watch!" (Lk 13:37)?  We enter into these weeks of preparation not with an invitation, but with a sobering exhortation--the end is near!
Of course, even the wisdom of contemporary organizational gurus reminds us to "begin with the end in mind."  But the first weeks of Advent offer us even more urgent spiritual advice:  Be on guard for the return of Christ the King, today; be vigilant in preparing for the birth of the Christ child anew, here and now.
Advent raises many key questions of the spiritual life.  For example, how might I be be more attuned to the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God during this season of anticipation?  How can I make meaningful changes in the "footwork" of my daily life and so be better prepared to celebrate God coming to us as a helpless child?  How can I be more sensitive to the signs of Christ's daily comings, and therefore more prepared for his definitive arrival?
Since Advent ushers in the Church's liturgical "new year," one of my resolutions this year is to consider the ways in which I am too busy building my own kingdom, and not focusing on His.  This year my self-examination will also include an honest assessment of my daily distractions and my trivializing temptations:  What dulls my mind and heart, and what lulls me into a sense of self-generated security?  In short, what sucks the Life out of me?
Another way I plan to approach this Advent season is to embrace St. Paul's sage advice: "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4:8).  Maybe it's just me, but it often seems so easy to focus on what is not true, what is dishonorable, unjust, impure, ugly, and grace-less.  Advent is a time to be more attentive to the still, small signs of the season. 

If I can more consciously look for the Light, celebrate the Joy, and notice the Peace which surpasses all understanding, then I will be more ready to respond with honesty and integrity to the ringing refrain of Advent:  "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths" (Mk 1:3).
Let's pray that the ongoing missionary transformation of the Church will continue apace this Advent--one heart at a time--beginning with mine and with yours!
Come, O Come, Emmanuel--