This school yearbook picture of me was probably taken around the time my parents allowed me to stay at home while they went out of town to go grocery shopping.
Today, as we enter the season of Advent, we are invited to reflect on a powerful message from the Gospel of Mark. Jesus tells us, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
This message of vigilance and readiness is particularly poignant as we begin our journey towards Christmas.
I want to share a personal story from my childhood that I believe beautifully illustrates this message. When I was about 12 or 13, living in Harrisville, my family used to make regular trips to Watertown for grocery shopping.
It was a whole-day affair, including a lunch at an exciting place like McDonald's. As I grew older, I felt I was too mature to join these trips and yearned for the freedom of staying home alone. My parents agreed but on one condition: I had to complete certain chores before they returned.
The first week, everything went according to plan. I managed my time well, finishing my chores just in time for their return.
However, the following week, things didn't go quite as smoothly. Caught up in the enjoyment of having the house to myself, I watched TV all day and fell asleep, only to wake up minutes before my family was due back.
I scrambled to do my chores, but it was too late. My parents arrived to find me in the midst of my unfinished tasks. The consequence? I was grounded for a week and had to join the family shopping trip the next Saturday.
This childhood experience reminds me so much of Jesus’ call to be watchful and prepared. In the Gospel, the master of the house leaves, assigning tasks to his servants.
He commands the doorkeeper to stay on watch, emphasizing the need for constant readiness. Like the doorkeeper, we are called to be vigilant in our spiritual lives, always prepared for Christ’s coming.
In my story, I enjoyed the freedom of being home alone but forgot the responsibility that came with it. How often do we do the same in our spiritual lives? We enjoy the blessings of life but sometimes neglect our spiritual responsibilities, getting caught up in worldly distractions.
As we step into Advent, a season of preparation and waiting, let us take this message to heart. Advent is not just about preparing to celebrate Christ’s birth; it's also a time to prepare our hearts and souls for His return.
Just as I learned the hard lesson of balancing freedom with responsibility, let us learn to balance the joys and demands of our daily lives with the constant call to be spiritually vigilant.
I came up with 4 “chores” we can do during Advent to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus:
Prayer and Scripture: Deepen your prayer life and engage with Scripture, focusing on passages that prepare us for Christ’s birth and return.
Acts of Charity and Service: Embody the spirit of Advent through acts of kindness and service to others, reflecting Christ's love.
Reflection and Reconciliation: Spend time in self-examination and participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, preparing your heart for Jesus.
Community and Tradition: Strengthen bonds within your faith community and participate in Advent traditions like the Advent wreath, which visually and spiritually prepare us for the season.
These practices are our way of staying vigilant, much like the doorkeeper in today's Gospel. We are not just preparing for a historical event; we are also actively waiting for Christ’s second coming. This season calls us to be alert and ready, not caught unprepared as I was on that Saturday afternoon in my youth.
As we journey through Advent, let us embrace these spiritual disciplines with a renewed sense of purpose. Let this be a time of meaningful preparation, where we not only recall the birth of our Savior but also joyfully anticipate His return.
May this Advent season bring each of us closer to the heart of Christ, as we watch and wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.