Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
In today’s Gospel, Our Lord calls us to direct our attention to the last things, the end of our own lives and, in the fullness of time, the end of the world. He gives us two emphatic commands: “Be watchful!” and “Be alert!”
These commands should form the pillars of our Advent practice, especially during the first three weeks, when the Church’s liturgy focuses on the Second Coming of Christ.
What is it that we are to watch for? It is the Master, Christ Himself, who will return at an unexpected time. Watching for the returning Christ means taking concrete steps to focus our minds and hearts on Him. We remove ourselves, for a time, from our usual routine in the same way that a watchman climbs a wall or a tower for a clearer view. Eucharistic Adoration, prayerful reading of Scripture, and meditative prayer such as the Rosary are all ways of watching for the Lord’s return.
The second command that Our Lord gives us is to be alert. Alertness is a disposition, something we can cultivate even when we are not engaging, outwardly, in acts of prayer. While watching directs our gaze outward, alertness means being conscious of what is going on in our own hearts. Where are our thoughts leading us? Are anxieties and fears preventing us from welcoming the Lord in our neighbor? Is God speaking to us in the events of our day, calling us to grow spiritually in some way?
Together, spiritual watchfulness and alertness make us ready to receive the Lord whenever and however He comes. They are habits that must be built up and maintained over the course of a lifetime if they are to serve us well at the end of our lives.
This Advent, let us grow in watchfulness and alertness, confident in God’s grace as we await the return of our loving Lord.
Please be assured of my prayers before Our Lord, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
+ Bishop Schlert