Father Slater’s Advent Message
Advent, which we begin today, is perhaps the most difficult season of the Church year to celebrate. It is a very short season, even shorter this year since Christmas falls on a Monday and a fourth week of Advent is virtually eliminated. Advent also comes at the point in our year where we are most distracted by all that must be accomplished at work and at home. One need only think of Christmas gift shopping, Christmas parties and gatherings, Christmas cards, and year end reports for work to begin getting nervous and distracted. Finally, everywhere we turn during Advent, we are told that these weeks are the “Christmas Season.” It might be the Christmas shopping season, which businesses heavily depend upon, but it is not Christmas. Christmas begins on Christmas (to many an odd concept).
In the gospel today, the words “be alert” and “watch” are used five times. Both words have the basic meaning of “don’t fall asleep.” They remind us how easily, in all the activity and chaos, we can fall asleep to the true meaning of this time of year. In all the preparations we make of things outside ourselves, e.g., lights, gifts, baking, we can forget all about preparing ourselves. As we make careful lists of what everyone needs for Christmas, we fail to look carefully at what we truly need for Christmas. When we bake or buy cakes and cookies for all to enjoy, we can fail to get in touch with our own hunger of heart.
At Sunday Mass this Advent, pay special attention to our first readings which are drawn from the prophet Isaiah (the first three Sundays of Advent) and the Second Book of Samuel (the fourth Sunday). These passages are meant to help us to look into our hearts, recognize our true needs and longings, and be filled with hope as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ. But for that to happen, we need to stay awake. As Jesus tells us in the Gospel today, we must “Be watchful! Be alert!” In Advent, there is no time for delay. Time is very short.