Be watchful. Be alert. Be present.

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

December 3, 2023 – First Sunday of Advent, Mark 13:33-37

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“How’s it going?” my neighbor asks me as he passes by our home with his dog in tow. “Okay.” I answer. “But you never know what’s ahead,” I add. He nods and proceeds on his way. Thus transpires a common, but meaningful exchange about the nature of life. The past is set but the future is open-ended, uncertain. We best be prepared for almost anything. And greet the future being fully present to whatever it offers.

Today we celebrate the beginning of the church year, the first Sunday of Advent. And we are given important advice on how to best welcome and enter our own personal futures. “Be watchful (keep your eyes wide open). Be alert (focus on all that is happening around you). God’s Spirit is present and invites each of us to live more fully. But you may miss it if you are not present to its arrival or not as fully aware of its potential as you might be.

Scientists tell us that what makes us most human is our capacity for consciousness. Spiritual teachers remind us to develop the ability to be fully present to ourselves, our lives and what’s around us. Such consciousness is at the heart of a vibrant spiritual life. Often silence is encouraged, not to quiet us, but to lead us beyond the noise and distractions that come our way 24/7. We often find ourselves in a milieu of constant noise. We move along in our day often distracted by all sorts of stimuli. Do you even find yourself “awakened” suddenly asking yourself, “where am I? or what am I doing?”

One of my favorite biblical reminders is when we are told that now is the acceptable time. And when is that nowthat’s being mentioned? It’s during all the nows that we are given each day of our lives.

Advent means “coming.” In the time of Jesus many were hoping for the coming of a messiah, one who would free them from the oppressive rule of foreigners. In their imagination they hoped for the restoration of Israel, like it was during the reign of King David, a thousand years before.

In our secular society, children hope for the coming of Santa bringing gifts they had described in their letter to the North Pole. Adults hope for good health, family harmony and peace on earth, a wish seemingly always timely.

But today’s gospel doesn’t so much focus on what’s ahead in the future, but what’s there in the next moment of our life. Be watchful and alert! God is there, waiting.

David M. Thomas, PhD

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