First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19, 64:2-7; 1Cor 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37
December 2/3, 2023
There are so many attractive distractions it would seem, especially with technology and devices. Over twenty years ago, in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, we were very concerned about the impact screen time and cell phones would have upon young people’s brain development and their social adjustment. Our concerns have been proven well-founded. Despite the promise of a greater global unity through internet connectivity and the sharing of information, there has only been increased disconnection among the human family. There are so many divided hearts among us now, and so many divided lives! Jesus tells us we must watch with undivided attention, undivided hearts, and undivided lives. This kind of watching and unity will not come from social media.
Who or what do you most deeply desire in your life? For whom do you watch? Who will unite your life into a satisfying whole? Jesus alone will ultimately unite us and satisfy our deepest desires.
Watch! Look for Jesus! Look for the one you most desire!
Advent is a time to watch for the fulfillment of our heart’s desire. It is a time to reorient our lives. It is a time of anticipation. It is a time to end the divisiveness of our lives, divisiveness with God and with each other. It is a time of repentance.
Jesus came two millennia ago as a mere baby. He will come again in power and glory that last day. Jesus truly comes now, right now, here in this church and on this altar. Do you recognize him? Do you watch for him, or do you live distracted, divided lives, glued to your phones, and addicted to a constant flow of data? Jesus is here, right here. He is among us; he is within us at this moment; and he will come soon on this altar. Can we remain focused on him?
“Why do you let us wander, O Lord? Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!” says Isaiah. Do we pray in the same way, with the same intensity, with the same undivided anticipation? Or, do we distract ourselves from what never ultimately satisfies us?
Jesus has come down from the heavens as a child centuries ago. He comes down today at this Eucharist. At the end of time he will come again in power and majesty. We remember his first coming; we anticipate his future coming; and we must recognize his coming today.
Advent is a time to watch, to anticipate, and remember, and recognize. Advent is a time to ask ourselves who or what we most deeply desire. Is it Jesus? Is it God’s only begotten Son? Do we love him enough, long for him enough, and watch enough for him with undivided hearts? Are we eager for his coming into our lives?
Men, you who have loved a woman know exactly what I am talking about. Women, you who have loved a man know exactly what I am describing. Love unites. Love conquers all distractions. Are we so in love with Jesus that our hearts ache for his presence, for his coming into our lives and our world? Do our hearts long for him so much that we rush to him in the Eucharist?
Our hearts ought to burn with anticipation as we watch. Our lives ought to ache for his presence. Always watching and waiting need we to be. At this moment, at this hour, in this church, are we burning in anticipation of what will happen at this altar in just a few minutes? The heavens themselves will be opened and God will come down to be with us, Jesus himself. Or, will we divide our hearts and distract our lives?
Isaiah felt the “burn” and the desire. Do we? Isaiah could only anticipate. We can see!…. Soon right here on this altar.
We have all heard stories like the one I am about to tell you, I know, but this one is true and personal for it has to do with my grandmother. Nearly 85 years ago, grandma longed for the one she loved in the Eucharist. She longed enough to literally walk from the farm north of town every Sunday, year around, about an eight mile round trip, to attend Mass. Nothing kept her away until she died at an early age by a sudden illness. I never met grandma, but this image of her remains with me and strengthens my desire for Jesus in the Eucharist.
Our hearts and lives are too distracted, too divided; we have lost our sight, our conviction, our love for Jesus and his true presence, his body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Eucharist. We have fallen to the idol gods of technology. We must repent, and we can this Advent. Our hearts and souls must ache and burn for Jesus’ real presence and to be with the one we most deeply desire in life.
My challenge to each of you this Advent is to repent, go to confession, put down your cell phones and pick up Jesus. Watch for him…watch with eager anticipation for his coming. Just as sure as he was born in Bethlehem, and just as certainly he will come someday in glory, he comes today, at this hour, in this place, on this altar. “What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37)