I don’t know if you remember the song Anticipation. One rendition was by Carly Simon. Advent is a season of anticipation, weeks of expectancy, eagerness and hope. At the time of Jesus the Jewish people were in a state of anticipation and expectancy. A hopeful people asked Jesus, ‘are you he who is to come or should be look for another?’ If you have small children this is the beginning of a time of anticipation in the family as your young children look forward to Santa’s coming to town. In anticipation we make plans for Christmas shopping, Christmas decorations, Christmas travel and Christmas family gatherings.
It’s possible that while we are caught up in anticipation of a future event, whether it is this coming Christmas, an upcoming wedding, a winter vacation, we can fail to see the demands and the possibilities of the now of our lives. That’s why the second reading for today’s Mass speaks so well to this season of anticipation. Paul tells us, now is the moment to wake from sleep so that we can live honorably as in the day. We can see these coming four weeks of Advent as a time for our personal journey inward, being awake to the reality of our personal relationship with Christ so that we can live more towards our outward journey, the reality of life around us and the integrity of our relationship with others. St. John reminds us, ‘if anyone says he loves God and does not love his neighbour he is a liar.’
Paul encourages the Christians of Rome to wake from sleep. In our Advent journey inward can we ask ourselves what is the sleep that keeps us from living the demands of our personal relationship with Christ – love one another as I have loved you. Facing this demand we are more capable of meeting the demands of our relationship with others, which is what our outward journey is all about. Is our sleep our indifference, our lack of interest in the social issues that are a blight on life of our city? Have we become desensitized to the homeless men and women of Toronto? Have we no concern for the increase in number of children living in poverty, not just in the city but across the country. Thirty years ago our members of parliament voted unanimously rid the country of child poverty by the year 2000. Ten years after that deadline the situation is worse. Are we apathetic to the fact that food banks throughout the city cannot keep up with the demands put upon them. Are we asleep to the environmental degradation of the planet, a degradation that threatens the quality of life for children, grandchildren and great grandchildren?
Are we asleep to what someone called ‘sins that do not bother us?’ These are ways of relating to family members, friends and fellow workers that are hurtful, insensitive and disrespectful. Are we sleeping to avoid hearing of the struggles and pains of so many men, women and children around the world?
I think that as a parish family we are awake to the needs of others because you do respond so generously to the special needs that come before us at this time of year. Your constant support of St. Vincent de Paul, the Good Shepherd Centre, Rosalie Hall and other causes that come our way at this time of year is an inspiration. Our only caution is that we do not tire of the many empty, needy hands that stretch out to us at this time of year.
We can and should get excited about welcoming the Christ as He comes to us at Christmas and at the same time be always aware of the Christ as he comes to us in every person we meet.
Advent is meant to be a special time, certainly a time of anticipation but also a time to wake from whatever sleeps that would have us avoid the needs of those around us. Now is the time, however long or short it may be, that we can use to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of those whose time we share.