Today is the first day of the season of Advent, a time of preparation for the great feast of Christmas when we celebrate the incarnation – the birth in flesh – of Jesus, the Christ. Paul is quite encouraging this morning in his greeting to the Corinthians as he writes (in part), Grace to you and peace! You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of Jesus Christ…He will keep you firm to the end…God is faithful. (1Cor 1:3-9) Paul had already met Christ in a flash of insight, a personal revelation that turned his life around. If it could happen to him, a former persecutor of Christians, it could probably happen to anyone although he was also convinced that Christ was coming back soon for the whole world. Accordingly, he could be speaking to us today.
Jesus was a bit more challenging in his words. “Be watchful! Be alert!” he says. “You do not know when the time will come. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” (MK 13:33-37) Jesus was telling a story about a master who went on a trip and left his servants in charge. In all similar parables, servants were strongly advised to be ready to greet the master upon his return. Just as in the first instance, we could be the audience for this message.
In the first reading, Paul is confident of a good outcome because of God’s fidelity. In the gospel the challenge of fidelity is ours. I learned in my youth as a Girl Scout to be prepared and I have always loved this season as a chance to settle into the quiet of winter and reflect on what it might mean each year to welcome Jesus more deeply into my life. This morning as I thought about the word – Advent – that characterizes this time of waiting and preparation as well as the stance of expectation, I played with the Latin – one of my favorite subjects in high school because of my stellar teacher, Sister Thomas Aquinas. The preposition ad gives the verb “to come” a nuance that focuses us on the arrival, i.e; to come to = to arrive. What I experienced this morning was another sense of to come to which was what Jesus was talking about this morning. “Wake up!” he was saying. “Recognize what’s going on here! Prepare your heart because I’m already here. It’s time to notice your potential for transformation. It’s time to come to!“