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How Can I Be Any More Alert?

November 29, 2020   First Sunday of Advent (Lectionary: 2)

You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
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.
Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.

Responsorial Psalm   PS 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Reading II   1 COR 1:3-9

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.

Alleluia   PS 85:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Show us Lord, your love;
and grant us your salvation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MK 13:33-37

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.
Watch, therefore;
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!’”

By John Barrett

The Gospel author Mark sets the tone this Advent season in saying “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” This Advent season seems different to me. Usually, the beginning of Advent breaks into my otherwise ebb and flow late November and heightens my anticipation for the coming of the Lord.

But the tumultuous events of this year have forced me to be watchful and alert long before this first week of Advent. 

I’ve been watchful and alert of the pandemic as the staggering amount of cases have gripped me in fear and changed my very livelihood. I’ve been watchful and alert of the integrity of our democracy as the election has been marred by inflammatory rhetoric. I’ve been watchful and alert of deep-seated racial injustices that have made me re-evaluate our nation’s capacity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, Mark has not just set the tone for Advent, he has set the tone for 2020. 

I can’t help but to feel guilty this Advent season. I don’t think it’s fair for God to expect me to be even more watchful and alert of what’s going on in my world. Isaiah magnifies what little capacity for waiting I have left: “We have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.” 

So how can the leaf stay connected to its branch this Advent lest it blow away in the wind?

Paul calms me down as he reminds me that “the testimony to Christ was confirmed among me, so that I am not lacking in any spiritual gift as I wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

I teach ninth grade Theology. My students and I spend an entire unit grappling with this term, revelation. The word itself derives from the Latin, “to remove the veil.” The beauty of this unit comes in its culmination when my students and I discover that in God’s revelation, the veil removed does not merely show us a what, but a who; not just an object, but a subject.  

As I grow mindful of this reality, my guilt this Advent season diminishes. Mark isn’t asking me to be watchful and alert of more “whats”, more objects. Rather, Mark challenges me to be watchful and alert of the “who”, the eternal subject who is God!

So, this Advent, I choose to be in relationship with the extraordinary God who reveals Godself in the ordinary events of my life: a pandemic, an election, a movement for racial justice. 

I choose to be watchful and be alert, not just of the many exhausting “whats,” but of the eternal “Who” who reconnects His scattered leaves to their proper branches. 

 And even though I don’t know when the time will come, I wait in joyful hope that the potter might find me working and see a little bit of himself in the clay of his creation. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

John Barrett is a Cleveland native who spends most of his time teaching ninth grade Theology, enjoying the company of his family and friends, and fly-fishing on the Rocky River. John teaches courses on Scripture and Christology and encourages his students to approach course material with Jacob - the Old Testament figure - in mind. John encourages students to adopt Jacob’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord by wrestling with the material in front of them even if it means they leave the experience a changed person. 

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1 comment

  • Awesome work John – PJ @ TGC

    Josh

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