Meditation by Br. Matthew

1st Sunday of Advent 2023


Today is Advent Sunday, the first Sunday of the liturgical year. This season is given to us to prepare us to welcome the birth of Jesus, the coming of God to be among us. It is a time given to each one of us to get ready inwardly to receive God’s newness in our lives, to let the Holy Spirit bring to birth in us intuitions, projects, and the courage to go forward on the path that is before us.

The words read this Sunday to bring us into the season of Advent are not the annunciation of the birth of the Child Jesus, but a call: “Take care! Keep awake,” Christ says to us. The Gospel reading today comes just before the entry of Jesus into his passion. He asks us to keep going in a prayer that is fully awake. Of course, that makes us think immediately of the same call that Jesus addresses to his friends in Gethsemane. This taking up of the same theme points to the extreme tension of the place to which we are called.

How do I understand this call to keep awake? First of all, concretely, it means not to be asleep, not to live like people sleepwalking. The temptation would be like for the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, to drop off to sleep, to let ourselves succumb to complex situations within ourselves as well as around us, and to end up thinking “what’s the use?”

If Jesus asks us to keep awake, is it not also an invitation to recognize that we know very little about what is going to happen, that we are incapable of predicting or anticipating the things that really matter, the things that are decisive? Keeping awake means knowing that we are poor in the sense that we cannot accomplish everything through our own projects, and daring to keep open a space for God inside us.

Keeping awake is also a way of looking at life attentively. How do we look at life around us and inside us? At the beginning of this liturgical year, our community is moving into a new stage. Advent invites us, the brothers, and all of us, in our families, in our local communities and in society at large, to change and to renew our way of looking.

Will we have the courage to look at our past experiences to discern traces left by God, to discern the coming of Christ? It is not a matter of closing our eyes to the things that were perhaps not as they should have been, but of finding a way of looking that is right.

Will we have the courage to stand in the present moment to welcome joyfully the life that Christ wants to give us now? To be in God’s hands like the clay in the hands of the potter, as we heard in the first reading, so as to become what we are called to be?
Will we have the courage to turn towards what is to come so that our hope may be renewed again and again until the day when Christ shall be all in all?

The leaves of the fig-tree grow; the words of Jesus do not pass away: they are always with us. Whether we are in the evening, or in the middle of the night, or at cock-crow, or at dawn, let us keep awake and stay vigilant. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Let us prepare for the feast.

Last updated: 5 December 2023