Welcome to Advent with Nazareth Retreat Center: a series of short reflections on timely issues facing our world today in relation to the Gospel message for each Sunday of Advent. All reflections will come from members of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. It is the Sisters’ hope and prayer that these reflections will be a source of wisdom, insight, inspiration, and closeness to God during a time in our world’s history where observing this sacred time of year, as usual, is not possible.
Thank you for listening to these reflections. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth pray that you have a blessed, safe, and healthy Advent!
Reflection on 1st Sunday of Advent, Isaiah 63:16B-17, 19B, 64:2-7; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37 Michelle Grgurich, SCN, 11.29.20
The season of Advent calls us to quiet our hearts, to be silent and to ponder how God is alive in and among us.
The readings for the first Sunday in Advent invite us to reflect on our relationship with God, to consider the hope and confidence we find in Christ Jesus and to embrace a specific directive for our journey through Advent.
I invite you now to take a deep breath and join me in a prayerful, reflective walk through today’s readings.
The first reading from the prophet Isaiah is highly emotional and expresses a deep longing for God’s presence. The prophet writes, “Why do you let us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.” Isaiah makes a desperate appeal, pleading with God to intervene, to “show us your face!” “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!” We can hear the lament, the agony, sorrow, mourning and grief as Isaiah continues, “all of us become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags, we have all withered like leaves, our guilt carries us away like the wind.” Has God abandoned the people or have the people abandoned God? The prophet calls us to reflect on and come to grips with the reality of our relationship with God, to be honest and to lament the times we as individuals, and collectively, have not been a reflection of the love of God, our creator. Isaiah says, “There is none who calls upon your name, yet, O God, we are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hands.” There is a sense of cultural shame here, begging the question, why do we (as the people God) wander from God’s ways and harden our hearts? At the same time there is also a sense of knowing we belong to God.
Stopping along the way in contemplation, we might prayerfully ask ourselves, What are the longings of my heart? What am I crying out to God for at this time? What lament, loss, discomfort, agony, sorrow and grief am I experiencing? What is my relationship with God like in the midst of the circumstances that surround me?
After the highly emotional, desperate pleas of Isaiah, we turn to the confidence St. Paul expresses in the first letter to the Corinthians. “I give thanks to my God always for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in Christ you were enriched in every way.” What a relief! A sense of hope to know that as a believer, you are enriched in every way, not lacking in any spiritual gift. There is a great sense of comfort in Paul’s words, God has graced us in Christ Jesus! We are adequately equipped, we have all the spiritual gifts we need.
Paul also reminds us that we are waiting for the completeness reserved to the future revelation of God through Jesus. We live in the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus AND we await the fullness of God’s revelation that unfolds in time. God is faithful, and it is by God that you are called into relationship with Jesus. God will keep you firm and irreproachable to the end. The reading is an infusion of great confidence in all we have been given as believers.
And so, pausing again for reflection at this point in our walk through the readings, we might ask, do I have confidence that I am not lacking in any spiritual gift? that I have everything I need? What sense of hope do I have at this time, especially as I begin my journey through the Advent season? Do I experience comfort in the grace and knowledge bestowed on me in Christ? How can I build my confidence and deepen my relationship with God in these days?
As we arrive at the gospel on our walk through the readings, we immediately encounter a direct imperative, a clear directive! An exhortation to confidence and vigilance! Be watchful! Be alert! We suddenly find ourselves in the midst of the parable of constant vigilance – God alone knows the exact time – Watch!
We are directed to have the watchfulness required of a doorkeeper or gatekeeper. Since we don’t know the time when Jesus will come, evening, midnight, cockcrow, morning – constant vigilance is required. Don’t be found sleeping! What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!” We are invited during the season of Advent to watch for God’s unfolding revelation in our own life, the movement of God in and through and around us.
In the final pause on our walk through the readings we might stop and ask, What am I watching for at this time in my life? Am I alert, on the lookout, attentive, observant to the movement of God in my life? Do I wait attentively or expectantly for God? For Jesus? For the action of the Spirit? What can I do to keep myself awake, remain vigilant, keep vigil, maintain an Advent devotion?
The directive is clear: Be Watchful! Be Alert! Be keenly watchful, Be ever awake and alert for the arrival of God with us, Emmanuel.
As God continues to invite each of us to prayerfully walk through these Advent days, pausing to contemplate our lives and deepen our relationship with God, let us pray together for the grace to watch attentively, to be ever awake to the unfolding revelation of God within and among us.