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First Sunday of Advent: God invites us to a different kind of waiting

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Sunday Scripture readings, Dec. 1, 2019

First Sunday of Advent

1) Is 2:1-5

Psalm 122:1-9

2) Rom 13:11-14

Gospel: Mt 24:37-44

God invites us to a different kind of waiting

Waiting takes many forms in daily life. Waiting in rush-hour traffic stretches the virtue of patience. Waiting for responses to emails and social media posts is part of the endless traffic of human communication.

Expectant parents wait with hopeful joy for the birth of a child. And children wait eagerly for recess when school gives way to play in games and sports. Those in search of work wait for opportunities to provide for their families’ needs.

Jem Sullivan writes for Catholic News Service(CNS photo/courtesy Jem Sullivan)

Teenagers and young adults wait for acceptance letters to schools and colleges. For the sick, there is the anguished waiting for results of medical tests, fraught with fear of the unknown. And we wait for moments of reconciliation in difficult or broken relationships.

On this First Sunday of Advent, God’s word invites us to a different kind of waiting. It is a spiritual waiting that can change the way we experience the waiting that makes up daily life. It is a spiritual waiting that reminds us to put God first.

By listening attentively to God’s word unfolding in the symphony of Advent liturgical prayers and readings, this season of grace can be a new opportunity to turn back to God, the origin and the goal of life.

In the midst of the increasingly hurried, materialistic and stressful pace of the season, Advent is a graced time to slow down and pause in awareness of our more deeper longings. In Advent, we recognize that all our best human yearnings are, in reality, yearnings for God who is waiting with divine patience and mercy for our response of faith and love.

The readings and prayers of Advent attune and orient our hearts and minds to welcome Jesus, the one sent by God to reconcile the world to friendship with God. The Holy Spirit’s gentle voice rouses us from the distractions and indifference of the world to spiritual alertness so we can respond to Jesus’ call to “stay awake!”

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob.” These words of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading direct us to those times and places, ordinary and extraordinary, that invite us to grow in Advent waiting. By dedicating time to pray each day of Advent, we respond to the prophet’s invitation to “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

The psalmist echoes the prophet’s invitation to enter the house of the Lord with expectant prayer and praise: “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”

As the Advent season unfolds, the church’s prayerful waiting deepens and gathers strength in the hope of God’s outpouring of love in Jesus, word made flesh. Our Advent waiting will be fruitful to the extent that we join in the church’s Advent pilgrimage to the Christ Child. For in Jesus, God waits with tender mercy to answer those who pray in Advent hope, “speak to me, Lord.”

Reflection Question:

How will you remain faithful to daily prayer this Advent season?

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Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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