Keeping a sense of wonder during Advent


Reflection on the Mass readings for Dec. 3 (First Sunday of Advent)


Isaiah 63:16B-17, 19B; 64:2-7

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

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:33-37


“Happy New Year!” I exclaimed. Returning to me only confused stares, my fifth graders wondered if their teacher had suddenly lost it. One brave soul eventually replied, “Um, huh?” Thus began our very fruitful and enlightening time together in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium one blustery fall day.

Advent was upon us for another year, and as Christians we were celebrating our new liturgical year.

We find ourselves in the same position this week, with the First Sunday of Advent approaching. Advent should be a time of newness. And not just because of the new presents the children anticipate receiving in a few weeks’ time, but rather a newness within us on account of the coming of the Child Jesus.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Never shall we lament sufficiently the loss of Advent on

account of jumping ahead to Christmas! Indeed, earlier this year while grocery shopping at a local store, I spied a large display of chubby Santa chocolates. It was Oct. 27.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus,” meaning “arrival, approach, visit.” This season invites us, on the one hand, to recall the coming in the past of the One who defined human history. But it is also the invitation at Christmas to anticipate the future coming of that same One again.

Hopefully, we have not lost our sense of wonder about who is arriving. Although it is true that you may be planning for the arrival of family members, or visitors from abroad this Christmas, we cannot neglect the arrival of our most important guest.

In our first reading this Sunday, the prophet Isaiah uses two names for this One: Father and Redeemer. And how shall he come? That ancient and most beautiful Advent hymn, quoting our reading from Isaiah today, reminds us, “Ye Heavens, open from above, that clouds may rain the Just One.”

Heaven will be torn open so that we may beg the Lord to return. Are we aware that he begs of us the same thing?

In these fall days, leaves gather on our doorsteps, between our houses, and in our hearts, too. But this Advent, we beg the Lord to come and remove them all. Let us ask ourselves, what leaves have gathered in my life, blocking the path of the Holy Spirit and his action within me? Where do we need to gather up these leaves in order to make space for God and the new growth he has promised us in the seasons to come?

As our days shorten and the darkness of winter sets in, St. Paul in our second reading bolsters our courage by reminding us that we are not lacking any good gift from God, even as we await the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In our Advent musings, let us recall and remember all that the Lord has done for us and will continue to do for us. We must ask ourselves, “This year, how am I waiting for the Lord? What is the disposition of my heart towards his good gifts?”

Undoubtedly, we will all be in need of silence in order to hear his response. Silence, during December? It is true, this most contemplative season is also one of the busiest, but as Christians, it is also an essential time to prepare for the coming of our Infant Savior. And as we wait, “he will keep you steady and without blame” (1 Cor 1:8).

Amidst the bustle of these December days, let us be on our guard against all that may distract us from the true meaning of this Advent season and the Christmas season that it anticipates. In the Gospel reading, St. Mark exhorts us to watchfulness. Don’t be fooled into thinking you already know that the Lord will come only on Dec. 25!

St. Mark reminds us that his return could be at evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn. Are we ready at all these times? Or is there a time or space in our lives where we are not open to the coming of our Redeemer? How are we to be made ready?

Of course, we must return to our good Father and make ourselves docile as supple clay in the hands of the divine potter (Is 64:7). This Advent, may our prayer for ourselves, our families, and our world echo this Sunday’s psalm, “Lord make us turn to you; let us see your face, and we shall be saved.”


Sister Anna Ruth is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia. Born and raised in Australia, Sister Anna Ruth moved to the U.S. in 2012 when she entered the convent. Her days are spent with a bunch of inquisitive fifth graders at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Newport News.

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