1st Sunday of Advent
The Preciousness of Time
From my ministry as a priest, and from my family and personal life, I have heard some very good wisdom.
I have heard statements from persons who have lived with cancer or other life-threatening diseases. And I have heard statements from those who have survived a coronary infarction or a stroke.
Their illnesses have taught them an invaluable lesson. They say that every second that flashes on your watch and every hour of the day is precious.
These persons explain how you learn to prize people. They explain how you come to understand that others can be as fragile and as fearful as you have been.
Every walk in the woods becomes an encounter with the sacred. Every hour spent with your spouse and children and friends becomes special.
Every moment spent with another person becomes too important to waste on put-downs and pettiness, or on judgment and rejection. You don’t quarrel anymore; you discuss.
Joy, peace, and reconciliation are the driving forces in your life. Paradoxically, even though you have had the life-threatening illness and deserve compassion, you develop compassion and empathy for others.
So, many of those who have had these illnesses can help the rest of us to realize that our time is finite and limited, that “later” is “now” and that “tomorrow” is “today.” They can lead us to cherish every moment we have.
Advent, the season that we begin this weekend, presents the same theme.
Advent alerts us to how finite and limited our time is. It confronts us with the reality that our lives are precious and fragile.
I find it interesting that in today’s brief gospel parable, Jesus uses the word “watch” or “watchful” four times. I guess he doesn’t want us to miss the point.
I am seeing four ways of watching or being watchful in response to Jesus using that word four times.
First, we are to watch out for the long term of life.
We are not to lose ourselves in any one season, including this Christmas season, or in any one comfort or problem. Instead, we are to watch out for the long term of life and the kind of person we will want to be when the last chapter of our life on this earth has arrived.
Then we are to watch out for the big picture, the broad perspective of things.
We are not to get boxed in by a narrow vision of life and of the world. Instead, we are to watch out for the big picture, the broad perspective –God’s own perspective – of the well-being of my family and my community and also of others whom I only know from the news.
We are to watch for how God comes to us each day.
We are not to be insensitive to the truth that God comes to us in everyday ways. Instead, we are to be watchful for how God comes to us in an affirming comment from your employer or simply in the starkness of winter.
And finally, we are to watch for how I can bring God to others.
We are not to miss opportunities to do good and then be guilty of what we call sins of omission. Instead, we are to be watchful for opportunities to attend Mass on an extra day or maybe to lend a helping hand at a local soup kitchen.
So, this watchfulness is our Advent calling and our way to be prepared and ready for the second coming of Christ.