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We come today to the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year.
It had been certainly all of our hopes that when we came to this point, the pandemic would be gone and we would all be in a much happier mood. But the reality is that, unfortunately, we seem to be in the midst of a second wave. And so we need to be cautious. We need to be watchful. And so fitting that the words of the scripture today are calling us in that direction to be watchful, to watch.
Perhaps the best way to understand the scripture today is to put it in the context of what we are doing as part of this liturgy. Today, we are baptizing Paola. And as we do that, we reflect on how reality often brings life to the scripture.
You think about it, the mother and father. Holiday have been watchful. In anticipation of the birth of the child. Every little thing, you know, that first kick, that concern, all of the medical procedures in the sense of checking out all of those things, being very watchful.
And yet the watching isn’t over. Perhaps the last word of today’s scripture is the most important for the parents and for the godparents and for everyone else with the birth of a child.
For in a sense, the watching is on both sides.
If you look at Paola right now, she’s watching. She’s trying to figure out what is she doing here today in the midst of all of this? Why did she have to get dressed the way they dressed her? Who were these people who were here with her? We’re watching and her parents and her godparents are watching as they will be watching all along for those little signs, that first sign of recognition.
And you begin to see that the child is becoming observant. And then watching for those first steps.
This first sounds. And all of it really is a process. But at the same time that you’re watching for all of those signs she’s watching. She’s watching to learn.
That’s part of what I asked you when you came at the very beginning. I said, are you willing to take the responsibility of training her in the practice of the faith? Because she will be watching. What all of this means, she will be watching you and your actions, your words, your gestures, all of those little things that we often think are inconsequential.
But actually are very important. Because those who are observing are learning. They’re learning by watching. And in that process, then, is there growth? Is there development?
So, again, the scripture today is very important in a sense, because it positions Advent. What is Advent really about?
I was out yesterday briefly, and I already saw people carrying their Christmas trees. You know, maybe you’ve not really done that – I don’t want to be, but it’s that sense that we can’t wait. We have to rush everything. We have to rush everything.
And yet the reality is that Advent is a time of watching. A very critical time of watching. Because Advent reminds us that what we’re preparing for is the greatest miracle, the miracle of the incarnation, God becoming man.
But God says, I didn’t do it once. I didn’t do it twice. I do it continually. And it’s only when you learn to watch, when you learn to watch how God enters into our history on a continual basis, that you begin to understand what’s the call of our faith.
What’s the challenge of our faith in the midst of a world that often closes its eyes?
Because the beauty of watching is that you have to have your eyes open. Just like Paola has her eyes open right now and is watching every day. And I know getting a little excited there. It’s beautiful, right?
But it’s watching with eyes open to the world in which we live, that can see how God is coming to us. How God is approaching us. How, God is calling us, God is challenging us.
And so Advent has this character to it, a character that is critically important for us people of faith.
Because it says watch. Watch. Watch.
Open your eyes and see how God is reaching out to you.
On one side, the blessings. But also watch and see how God is calling and challenging you – the reality of a suffering world in which we live.
And so hopefully when you put the two together, what we learn is that we are the continuation of the great mystery of the Incarnation.
In a sense, we are watching and observing the action, the action of being the hands of God, alive and at work in the world.