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November 26th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Today is New Year’s Eve according to the Church’s liturgical calendar. Tomorrow, we start the liturgical year over again with the First Sunday of Advent, a time of penitential expectation for the coming of Christ. Today’s Gospel anticipates this with Jesus’ reminder to “[b]e vigilant at all times,” so that His Second Coming might not catch us unawares.
I know some Catholics who observe Advent as a kind of mini Lent, practicing penances and extra devotions throughout the four weeks leading up to Christmas. In this way, they try to better prepare for Christ’s coming — both His birth at Christmas and His Second Coming at the end of the world. I really like this way of observing Advent. Sometimes, in the midst of all our busyness preparing for Christmas, we tend to forget that we are in a penitential season of preparation. Including some small sacrifice or an extra devotion — such as an Advent wreath — can not only benefit us spiritually, but also help us better appreciate the beauty of the season.
Jesus warns us against becoming drowsy in our hearts and allowing ourselves to get caught up in the anxieties of daily life. By breaking the year into two penitential seasons — Advent and Lent — the Church gives us the opportunity to curb these tendencies and remain ever vigilant. When Lent becomes a distant memory and we start to grow lax in our spiritual lives, we have Advent as another opportunity to redouble our efforts in staying watchful. Soon after Advent, we have Lent again, with its 40 days of prayer and sacrifice. In this way, we are able to obey Our Lord’s call to continual vigilance.
We do not know the hour of Christ’s Second Coming. May today’s Gospel serve to inspire us as we begin the liturgical new year and the holy season of Advent, that we may prepare our hearts and remain ever watchful to greet Our Lord when He comes again.