A new liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent, and the readings help us get in touch with our collective cry of lament and frustration. We're frustrated because of our repeated failures to live up to the desires for the infinite put into our hearts by God.
Beneath it is a weariness with our fickle and undependable efforts to live up to God's expectations. However, good news comes in the form of our need for a Savior to rescue us. The shortcomings, failures and sins confirm our realization that we need loving help from above.
The first reading expresses this so well: "Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?" Beneath this expression is the realization that God gave us free will, and therefore our sinfulness is part of His permissive will. Hence, we blame God for allowing us to sin: We don't want to take responsibility for failures.
"Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard from of old."
It's almost as if the lament states: "Oh God, please intervene. Our humanity can't take this frustration much longer!" There's the hope expressed that God "would meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!" Then there is the further lament "...there is none who calls upon your name, who arouses himself to cling to you." Yet a cry of hope arises: "Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands." To acknowledge God as father and creator of mankind is a profound expression of hope.
The second reading also expresses that hope. Paul thanks God for the graces the Corinthians received through Christ's mercy. Paul tells them: "You are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. ... He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."
Thus, Paul expresses everything for which the first reading longed. There's a wonderful answer to our profound longings, fickleness and sinfulness. Christ is a good fit for inconsistent and fickle hearts that long for relief.
In the Gospel, Jesus, our Savior Himself, encourages us to be hopeful and watching: "You do not know when the time will come." He likens it to a man traveling abroad and putting servants in charge. They need to be alert and watchful because they don't "know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning."
Jesus has given us His gift of eternal life and, in the Ascension, left us bodily, though not spiritually. When He returns, either at the end of our life or at the end of time, He will reward us according to our readiness.
In the past few months, we have been reminded again and again how suddenly life can end for the unsuspecting. We've seen this in natural disasters of hurricanes and earthquakes, and unfortunately in human disasters of mass shootings.
Every time there's another disaster, we're reminded of how fragile life is and how suddenly it can come to an end. We need to simply ask ourselves: "If it came my way today or tomorrow, would I be prepared? How is my friendship with Jesus, with my family and with my friends?"
There are also the massacres of reputations presently unfolding in the media. If we take consolation in any of these revelations, we're part of the problem. The words of St. Anthony the Great seem so applicable right now: "Why is it that we are so upset with other people who sin differently than we do?"
Advent is a time of longing for a Savior. Longing for a Savior should arouse within us the desire to make a good confession. It should also arouse within us the desire to be faithful to daily prayer, including the Rosary.
It should also arouse the desire to intercede for others who have fallen away from their relationship with Christ. Does the evening news lead us to take these people to prayer? Try an experiment. One evening watch one hour of the evening news and the next night watch only 30 minutes, shut off the TV and pray 30 minutes for some of the people that came to your attention on the evening news. Then ask yourself: "When did I feel the deeper peace, watching one hour of TV or watching one half hour and then praying intercessory prayer for one half hour?
In the Garden, Jesus didn't say to Peter, "Take a break, have pleasant dreams, and I'll meet you in the courtyard!" No, He said: "Watch and pray that you may not fall into temptation."
When Judas arrived to betray Jesus, Peter was still asleep. The evil one arrives in our lives when we neglect to pray or to read the Scriptures. How Peter wished that he had listened to Jesus' encouragement to pray.