Abby is a staunch Catholic. She and her husband take seriously the teachings of the Church, especially on contraception and abortion. They have three children, and each of them was delivered through CS. Now, Abby is pregnant again, and her doctor is worried she may not survive another birth by CS. Abbyis also afraid and so is her husband Greg. Obinna has just lost his job. His wife is a-stay-at home mother with two children. One of his kids is sick, and there is no money to pay the medical bills. And Obinna is tempted to try illegal drugs business.
All the characters in the above story, and in similar stories often than not ask one and the same question, ‘What should I do?’ There is no doubt they are in a kind of darkness, in a dilemma. Life has backed them into a corner. They are tempted to remove their gaze from God and place it on themselves, on their own reality and suffering.That was Peter’s story in Matthew 14:29-31. Taking his eyes off the Lord, Peter became aware of the strong head wind of the sea, he took fright and began to sink. Do we not somehow sink when we are in situations like this? I have sunk many times in my own situations. I have sinned, and I have been in dark places where I have always wondered if there is ever going to be the light of a new day. The Advent Season captures these experiences.
It tells a story of our struggles with the darkness of sin and evil, the darkness of ignorance and error, the darkness of sloth and complacency, the darkness of rigidity and libertarianism. It is amid these many and varied darkness that we Christians speaks of the hope of Advent, the expected return of the light of Christ into our darkness. The Gospel reading today from Mark 13: 33-37uses the Greek word gregoreo, which according to Mary Healy, the author of Catholic Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, means ‘Be on the watch’, stay awake, be on the lookout.
For what? For the Second Coming of the Lord. Just as His First Coming reoriented the world and set things right, so would His Second Coming be.It means to be in that state of being mindful of what God is up to in any given circumstances. It is about being hopeful, being ready to spring like a lion crouching. The imageries of the lion crouching, of the world getting ready for the return of the Lord says something very deep about the Advent Season. Firstly,it says Advent is not a time for us to be asleep. Sleep here means a kind of spiritual torpor, self-indulgence, or complacency. A state in which we do not care, we shut ourselves off in ourselves and we are not bothered about others. Advent is a time for us to stay awake, to keep our faith alive by caring about the good of God and others
. We can only care about others and love them when we return our gaze on God. Secondly, Advent is not about optimism. There is no place for optimism in the Christian story. But there is hope. There is that belief as Rabi Johnathan Sacks once said that together we can make things better, together we can go through our moments of darkness, together we can wait for the dawn of light. Advent speaks of the courage to hope, to step out of our situation and look further, to look for the light of Christ that has come already and is to come again. Advent gives us the audacity to hope, to be expectant like a pregnant woman waiting to give birth. This image of a pregnant woman seems to capture the essence of Advent.
It tells us the woman carrying the pregnancy knows there is a child just as Advent tells the Church there is Christ, there is the light. Despite this truth, the child can only be seen dimly and most times, the mother and even her gynaecologists may misread the signs of the child in the womb. Similarly, we,membersof the Church do sometimes misread the present of Christ in the world. Besides, Advent is a kind of gestation period. We have to stay awake, and keep watch as a mother does. To avoid misreading the signs of the time, Advent not only speaks of hope, but it also summons us to be patient. As ananonymous author said somewherepatience is the ability to keep a good attitude while we are waiting. This attitude in biblical theology is the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11).For Saint Thomas Aquinas it is simply the good of the enjoyment of God. In other words, there is no room for sloth, whichAquinas defines asan oppressive sorrow of that makes us to neglect the good of God and neighbour.Advent calls us to be passionately involved in God.