First Sunday of Advent First Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1-8, Responsorial: Psalm 79: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Gospel: Mark 13:33-37 Waiting Like People at airports There are various themes to explore as Advent begins. Isaiah calls us to confess our sins and hope for better days. Paul’s thanksgiving to God is upbeat about the future. Jesus warns us against complacency, for the end is coming sooner than we expect. We might go mainly with the first and third readings - about being prepared for the day of the Lord. Advent invites reassessment of where our ways are leading us. This annual reminder, that the world as we know it will one day end, sounds more appropriate as Wintry season dawns on, when daylight is short and darkness seems to be winning over the light. But the positive side of this is that a new Spring day is dawning over the horizon, when Christ will come again into our lives with power to save us. Do you ever watch people at airports, waiting for loved ones to arrive from a flight? They often seem excited, eager for the first appearance of the familiar face, ready with the broad smile of greeting to embrace the returning traveler. We too wait for the Lord’s coming with eagerness, because we long for his presence. The waiting is important because, during our life’s pilgrimage, we are incomplete. As Augustine once said, “You have made us for Yourself, o Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” At some deep level of our personhood we are in need, a need that only God can fill. This is a time to open our hearts and invite the Lord to bring us to completion. We begin Advent, yearning for his coming. Today’s first reading puts this yearning into an image, that “We have all withered like leaves… blown by the wind.” The whirling, withered leaves of fall are a familiar scene these past few weeks. Isaiah proposes the dead leaves as symbols of all that is dried up and withered in our lives. But he also calls us to look for a better day. God is still in charge of creation, and our personal lives are under his loving care. We pray this Advent, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and make our own words of the psalm, “Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has chosen.” It is a central plank of our faith that the Lord never abandons His people. Back to the image of people at airports waiting for loved ones to arrive. It is an alert, active waiting – keeping an eye on the time. In today’s gospel Jesus says, “Be on your guard, stay awake.” He wants us to focus on our task here and now. We are to grow more mature in our relationship with others and with him, paying attention to prayer, and living with his message in our hearts. That’s what waiting for him should be like. And while we wait, we can enjoy his gifts, as promised, for as Paul assures us: “You will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ.” Takeaway Points/Life message: The message of today’s Scripture is that we should live in the living presence of Jesus every day waiting for his Second Coming. We can experience Christ’s living presence in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible, in our worshiping community in our parish, in our family, in our own souls and in everyone around us. The early Christians experienced it, and that is why the mutual greeting among Christians was not “Hi!” or “Good Morning!” but the Aramaic, “Maran Atha which means "Come, Lord Jesus" . This greeting acknowledged Jesus present in each of them and about to return. May God bless us and keep everyone ever prepared for Christ's second coming. While Christ Jesus changed our relationship with God, we are still flawed human beings. He tells us clearly that we need to keep watch over our faith. Advent is a perfect time to practice our vigilance. We are not just awaiting the coming of the Savior in the celebration of Christmas in Christ’s birth. We should be learning to better focus our faith on the enrichment of spiritual gifts that come to us in Jesus. This Advent season, as we plan making our gifts, I pray that we can think of ways that we can better share our spiritual gifts with others. During this very difficult time, I think of our loved ones who really need our gifts of faith, hope, charity, love, forgiveness, and encouragement - much more than they need chocolates or sweaters. I give thanks for Advent as the time to enrich ourselves in all these ways through the grace of God.