Gospel commentary: Watch, marvel and carry

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Gospel Commentary MK 13:33-37

Our faith journey as Christians often feels like a steep, uphill climb. First, life is tough. It is filled with unexpected and unwanted challenges like illness, loss of a loved one, major frustrations at school or work, and difficult relationships. Second, faith in Jesus does not come as easily as we expect: it requires lots of effort; we are weak and find it hard to remain disciplined and selfless; and our world is increasingly replacing our Christian culture with values and perspectives that contradict the Gospel way of life.

Advent comes at a great time every year to shake up our lives, remind us of the marvels of God’s love and truth, and kindle our desire to spread the light of Christ.

In our Gospel passage for today from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus exclaims, “watch” three times beginning with “Be watchful. Be alert.” God is a loving Father who looks after us and blesses us constantly. We get distracted so easily with life’s many demands and challenges, and lose our focus. We often fail to notice His presence and His care in our lives. We turn to the wrong places in our search for joy and meaning. Advent screams at us to watch. This means that we need to slow down and look with confident expectation for God’s love and blessings, which surround us every day. These blessings often come in subtle, unwrapped packages like a child, a poor person, a Gospel passage or a quiet moment in prayer.

Advent is an invitation to watch, to break from our usual routines, attitudes and perspectives, and prepare our hearts for Christ to come anew into our lives.

The great season of Advent is also a time to harken back to the central moment in human history when God chose to love and bless us in the most profound and unexpected way — coming and dwelling among us. “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3: 16).

One powerful testimony to this amazing mystery is that God wisely prepared the world for this event through the Old Testament prophets. Today, we are treated to a grace-filled moment in the life of the prophet Isaiah. The historical context is the recent return of many exiled Jews from Babylon only to find the Jews who remained in Jerusalem to have abandoned the faith, turned to the worship of fertility gods and left the Temple in ruins. Isaiah bemoans the waywardness of God’s children, noting how easily we wander from His paths and harden our hearts. Then, the prophet begs God to do something significant that will really help: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.”

Isaiah, in the midst of great pain in a particular historical moment, but also speaking under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prophetically speaks, many years before the time of Mary and Joseph, of God’s unequaled intervention, His supreme act of love, the greatest Gift the world has ever known — the gift of God’s only-begotten Son.

Advent is a time to marvel at the moment when God chooses to “rend the heavens and come down.”

Finally, I want to flip the coin and proclaim that we ourselves are called by God and given the grace to bring Christ into the world during Advent. People walking in darkness should be renewed in hope, awakened to faith and wrapped in a mantle of love by our actions and prayers during Advent. As missionary disciples of Christ, we help the world encounter Christ at Christmas by our lives of humble loving service, rooted in the truth of the Gospel. When we surrender a bit of our precious time, set aside our desire to watch another show on Netflix, choose to reroute our limited resources to someone in real need, or direct our focused attention to someone who is lonely or hurting, we carry Christ into the world, in imitation of the Blessed Mother.

This Advent, you are invited to watch, marvel and carry Jesus into our world.

Fr. Peterson is director of mission and development for the Youth Apostles.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017