I’m not sure when I went from having a body to having body parts. I became aware of that distinction many years ago when helping my sister Mary, her husband, Steve, and their six kids move. At the time, her three boys ranged in age from 18 to 24. At one point, my 21 year-old nephew bet me that he could jump onto the four-foot-high bed of the moving truck without the aid of his hands for leverage. This seemed like easy money to me. One leap later, an Abraham Lincoln switched wallets, and a realization hit me —“I am no longer a young adult!” Things like leaping onto moving truck beds in a single bound did not used to seem so superman-like to me. In my current state of physical fitness, it seemed reasonable to ask my nephew to submit to drug testing before handing over the bill.
On that moving day, one single scene repeated itself over and over again with different nephews. I would be on the opposite end of a dresser, a couch, or a bookshelf, headed down a stair well with a young adult nephew on the other side. He would be humming some contemporary tune, discussing a baseball team’s chances at making the playoffs, or joking with a neighbor. It seemed like he could easily have added the playing of a musical instrument and the spinning of a plate on the end of a stick if he wanted to.
The nonchalant attitude of this or that nephew on one side of the piece of furniture was balanced on the uncle side of it with an acute awareness of body parts. On the outside, I would smile beneath my beads of sweat, or maybe respond with an opinion about the topic of the moment. On the inside, here was a sample of the inner dialogue, “What is that pop in my right knee?” “Remember Tom, lift with your knees, not with your back.” “Don’t slip here! A torn ligament could have life-long consequences!”
How did it happen? How did I get so old?
Are you, like me, asking yourself a similar question about Advent? “How did it become Advent so fast?” This year, Advent came to us hidden under the cloak of an unseasonably warm and pleasant autumn. I find myself rubbing my eyes in disbelief as I look at the calendar. “How did this happen?”
The Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent (Mark 13: 33-37) addressed itself to the fact that, for we humans, tempus is always fugiting (i.e. time is always flying). In this passage Jesus warned us to “Be watchful,” and to “Be alert.” When I hear Jesus issuing admonitions like this, I no longer hear these warnings as a finger pointing to the “End Times.” After all, one of these days, I will die. That will be the end of this Earth for me. Case closed. Rather, I hear these warnings as a simple statement of fact about the way human life moves forward whether or not we choose to be intentional about its passing.
Somewhere around the age of forty, it becomes possible to see some of the terrain just a little more clearly. Once over the threshhold of fifty, that terrain appears in vivid tehnicolor. From the brow of the hill that is middle age, one can finally grasp how one day has a way of stacking up on top of another day. Weeks have a way of accumulating into months which, in turn, give way to years. Before long, that tiny little hand that used to wrap around your pinky finger is now casually moving furniture up a stairwell with you.
The Advent admonition, “Be Watchful,” is meant to draw attention to the fact that each day that passes for us, moves on into eternity—never to return again. Each dream deferred one more day is a dream that remains unfulfilled. Advent is that time of year when the Church’s liturgy invites us to pull up a chair next to the Lord in front of the home movie of our own lives. While watching, we are meant to ask the question, “Am I living intentionally?” “Am I becoming who the Lord meant for me to be, or through the course of my days, have I settled for the merely convenient or comfortable?”
Like a student who suddenly becomes aware that the paper assigned in August is coming due after Thanksgiving, this Sunday’s readings announce, “It is time!” It is time to be who God made you to be. Whether, it is morning, afternoon, or evening-time in your life, it is time to live this day, wide-awake to all of its challenges and opportunities. Like a firm trainer or coach, Advent invites you to quit waiting for the motivation to step out onto the pathway. During Advent, the Lord beckons you to take an intentional step out onto the pathway that you have been contemplating even with an awareness that some of your parts may get a little sore in the process.
- Regardless of how crazy or “out there” it may seem, what is a dream that has occurred or re-occurred to you over the years?
- Would you be willing to share your dream with at least one other person?
- What does this dream say about you as a person?
- Who are the allies you will need to gather around you to realize this dream?
- What will you need to let go of so that your hand can reach for the vision that you have?