Reflection on 1st Sunday in Advent: 29th November 2020

Longing

If we were to write a Christmas wish list for 2020 and compare it with our 2019 list, what a stark contrast there would probably be between both lists. In 2019 our list would possibly be full of things we would like. This year’s list would no doubt show that in our longing and in our waiting to be once again with those we love, we are deeply experiencing the true spirit of Advent. When we are in the presence of those who love us we see an image of our true selves reflected in their eyes. “Advent is a time of heightened awareness that invites us to see ourselves as God sees us, insofar as that is possible.” [1]

“There is a story about a church in the Netherlands. On entering the building, everyone would stop and bow in the direction of a white-washed wall. It was a tradition that nobody questioned. They felt it was the right thing to do. One day the parish decided to renovate the church. They began to strip the paint off the old walls. While doing this they discovered traces of a painting on the wall towards which everyone bowed, but nobody knew why. Very carefully they peeled off the layers of whitewash. What emerged was an ancient and very beautiful painting of Christ. Nobody was old enough to have had seen it. But now they came to understand why they almost instinctively persisted in honouring the wall that concealed the glorious work of art. The holy work of Advent is a little like that. It peels away the false veneer to reveal and restore, in the midst of our activities and our anxieties, the unique masterpiece within us. Is this the destiny for which our hearts are always longing?” [2]

By taking time to sit with God we will grow in awareness of who we truly are in Him. “When we sit still with all our heart, we bear witness to ourselves and to the world that there is no place to go.” [3] Only in God will our deepest longings be fulfilled. In today’s gospel Jesus tells us to be alert and to keep awake. “Spirituality means waking up, becoming aware.” [4] When we are grounded in the practice of loving presence we will be alert to the master’s unexpected revelations of his presence in everyone and in all creation. In our awakened moments we will know that ‘the master’ is always with us, fulfilling our deepest, perpetual yearning to be fully known and fully loved.

[1] José Antonio Pagola; [2]Daniel O’ Leary; [3] James Finley; [4] Anthony de Mello

Gospel: Mark 13:33-37

Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.

Therefore, keep awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”