Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent Week 1: Watchful Waiting

Advent has always been associated with a time of waiting. A time of waiting in the silence and the stillness of winter. A time of waiting in expectation for birthing to occur. A time of waiting for Jesus the Child to come into the world.

For the Jewish community of Mary's day (and the Jewish community of today), they lived in a continual Advent period, waiting for the Messiah to come. Was their waiting similar to our waiting for the Second Coming? Was it a waiting they believed in because their religion told them it would happen, but a lazy waiting because they had been waiting for so long? Was it a waiting of "Yes, it will happen someday, but not in my day?"

Yet, we hear Jesus call us to another kind of waiting--a watchful waiting.

In Mark 13:33, 36-37, Jesus said to his disciples "Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time will come. He may come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch."

Mary must have lived in this watchful waiting stance. A waiting that encompassed a certain awareness of all around her. A waiting that was open, not only to the usual, but to the unusual. Thus, she was open to discovering God through her religious traditions--the daily prayers said in common, the special Jewish traditions, the manifestation of God in nature--the usual. But Mary's waiting must have also included being open to God in other ways--the mysterious, almost touchable, presence of God when all seemed untouchable and the little whispers of God that others found inaudible--the unusual.

If Mary had not had experiences of God in this way, would she have been perceptive enough to hear God's voice at the Annunciation? Would she have been comfortable enough to voice her concerns and still say "Yes?" Would she have been open enough to recognize God in all subtle events to come--God speaking through Anna and Simeon, God's presence when Jesus is left at the temple, God's nudging when he prompts her to push Jesus into public ministry? Yes, Mary not only waited for the coming of the Messiah, but waiting in an alert, watchful stance.

Ask yourself: How alert and watchful is my stance? How watchful will my waiting be during this Advent? What is one time when I anticipated a special event in a watchful, alert way? What lessons can I take from this event to enhance my waiting during this Advent? How do I carry the watchful waiting purposefulness of Advent into my daily life throughout the year?

Pray: Lord, you call us to watchful waiting. We do not always appreciate our need to be in this stance. But we have been able to discover you in a small way during Advent times to know this watchful waiting has a beauty that is beyond our comprehension. Help us to continue to grow in our watchful waiting so we may always be aware of your comings in the most subtle of ways. As we look towards Mary as our example in this waiting, we give praise to your through our Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.

Written by Sister Kathleen Shannon, D.C.

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