This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent; the beginning of a new liturgical year, and the first of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Advent is the time that we prayerfully remember the first coming of Christ, His birth, while being ready for his second coming, judgment day. The gospel (Mark 13:33-37) therefore urges us: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”
A good watchman stays awake throughout the duty-period so as to promptly open the door at the arrival of the master. He also stays alert and awake so that he can detect threats and danger, and raise an alarm. He usually carried a weapon for the purpose of self defense and the defense of the property he is appointed to guard.
As Christians, God has appointed us as watchmen over His house; our lives. Like good watchmen and women, we are called to stay awake and alert throughout the duty period— our lifetime. But between now and the ultimate coming back of our Lord Jesus, God visits us every day in many different ways; thus, the need for us to remain vigilant and watchful so that we can recognize Him in His daily arrivals—Holy Moments—and promptly open the doors to let Him in. No wonder, in the first reading, Isaiah, the prophet says: “Would that you might meet us doing right and that we were mindful of you in our ways!” (Isaiah 64:4)
God’s daily arrivals happen in many ways: in the sacraments where He invites us into His graces, in his Word where he instructs us on the path to follow, in the marginalized of our society, where he gives us the opportunity to treat Him right, in times of sickness or trouble whereby He gives us opportunity to reorder our priorities, etc. His daily arrivals, these “Holy Moment”, happen when we are God’s hands and face for suffering or joyful humanity, when we celebrate others even as we disagree in opinion, when we encounter others in ways and manners that affirm their dignity even when they are of a different race, gender, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, etc., when we listen to others with attention, empathy, and compassion, and when we appreciate and follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who stooped to wash others’ feet, turned the other cheek, reigned with a scepter of love, pity, and compassion, and wielded the powers of mercy and forgiveness, even as He laid down His life for us.
God meets us doing right when we are able to detect threats to this house of His, our faith, such as false prophets, deceptive interpretations of God’s word, the theatrics of false miracle workers, false notions of “being spiritual but not religious”, and the insipid presence of spiritual lukewarmness and apathy. In order words, we need to guard ourselves against wolves in sheep clothing.
We also need to develop, keep, and be willing to deploy what St. Paul calls “The whole armor of God” and he names them to be: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith (to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one), the Word of God (which is sword of the Spirit and the helmet of salvation), prayer, and perseverance. Scripture says that our battle in this world is not with flesh and blood alone, but with the principalities and powers of darkness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12-18).
My friends, let us pray that God may grant us the grace to be watchful so as to notice His daily arrivals in our lives, alert to respond with readiness in ways that are pleasing to Him, and fully equipped to persevere while standing firm and courageous in the face trials and tribulations, Amen!