An interesting choice of Gospel, Mark 13:33-37. We can interpret it’s use here on the First Sunday of Advent to suggest that we use the four weeks of Advent like servants waiting for their Master to return, the waiting being the four weeks of Advent and the return of the Master being the arrival of the Christ-child on Christmas night.
So depending on how we use the next four weeks we’ll be awake or possibly even asleep when the Master of the house returns, the return being the arrival of the Christ-child in the crib on Christmas night.
As the child is placed in the crib on Christmas night, simultaneously, the same child should be arriving in our hearts – that’s what being awake means. The physical gesture of placing the figure of the infant King in the crib on Christmas night ought to be matched simultaneously by the same King arriving within our hearts. The mismatch here between what’s happening on the outside and what’s happening on the inside is the source of all boredom with religion.
So I want to suggest some ways in which we might stay awake.
There’s Mass here Monday – Friday at 7.30am and 10.00am. How about attending Mass for the four weeks of Advent? You’ll notice that I’m not proposing anything new. Nothing new in that; same old, same old. We don’t need anything new, we just need to see what’s there in a new way (which is why Pope Francis is so successful). We just need to come to it differently.
Generally Mass will not stand alone. Prayer is to Mass what weekday training nights are to the Wexford hurling team, or Kilkenny, or Tipperary. As a rule where there is no prayer there will be no Mass. Where there is, it’s usually little more than a habit waiting to be broken. So for each day of Advent try to associate a time of prayer and reflection with Mass – before or after but definitely at some point during the day (we’ll provide some material to help you). If you can’t do both, do one.
This will mean effort and discipline but there is no other way, push the boundaries out, it’s the only way to grow spiritually. If we do it well, we’ll make definite progress and our hearts will be more tuned to the arrival of the Christ-child on Christmas night.