TAKE HEED! WATCH!

Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7,
Psalm 80,
1 Corinthians 1:3-9,
Mark 13:33-37

In many areas of our country, neighborhood watch groups have been formed to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. They are on the alert for the coming of a “thief in the night.” That is the general idea as we begin the Season of Advent today: Be on the watch!

ISAIAH

Our first reading is an exquisite, heartfelt prayer – pleading with the Lord for help in our dire situation. It is a cry for the Lord to “rend the heavens and come down” – most appropriate at the start of Advent.

This prayer from Isaiah combines praise of the might and majesty of God with the acute recognition of our own sinfulness: “Behold you are angry and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.” What an accurate description of our sad state, as we deal with both our personal sin as well as the corporate sin of humanity!

But the reading ends, as it began, with the consoling thought that God is our father. We are the clay and he is the potter. A timely prayer for us indeed is the Responsorial, Psalm 80, imploring the Lord to “Rouse your power, and come to save us.”

GOSPEL

Three times in these four short verses Jesus tells us to “take heed and watch,” because we do not know the day nor the hour of his coming.

Today’s gospel exhorts us to “watch” so that we are not found “sleeping” when Jesus comes. In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus compares his coming to that of a “thief in the night” – a reference so unusual that Scripture scholars have said it must have come directly from the words of Jesus himself, because the evangelists would never dare to compare Jesus to a thief! In another place Jesus says his coming will occur “suddenly, like a snare” (cf. Luke 21:34).

In many passages about the Lord’s coming, there is an emphasis on preparation, as we saw a few weeks ago with the parable of the Ten Virgins – five wise and five foolish. There is also a corresponding emphasis on watchfulness as well. May we be both watchful and prepared!

FIRST CORINTHIANS

Our second reading is from the very beginning of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Paul praises the Corinthians, because they “were enriched in every way…not lacking in any spiritual gift.” He then gives them (and us) a strong word of encouragement: “ (God) will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” We need encouragement and Scripture is our best source (cf. Rom. 15:4). Words such as these can help us, especially as we approach the end of this very difficult year of 2020.

 
RUN TO MEET HIM!

 Advent is a season rich in spiritual inspiration! And so we are urged to “take heed and watch” and prepare for the Lord’s coming. The imagery of today’s Collect is striking: “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.” What a grace to pray for – that we may “run forth” to meet the Lord when he comes and so be gathered at his right hand with the sheep (cf. last week’s Gospel of Christ the King). Have a blessed Advent!

Al Mansfield