Keeping Time: Nov. 27, First Sunday of Advent

“So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” ~ Mt 24:.44

As Hurricane Matthew swirled towards the southeastern coast of the United States, our preparations kicked in. Batteries, canned goods, water: we knew what we needed and approximately when we would need it. But how do we prepare for an event—the coming of Christ—whose date we cannot know? None of us truly understands what it means that “the Son of Man will come,” nor can we pinpoint the day when his kingdom will be fully realized. There is no specific strategic action for us to take here. Rather, we are called to develop habits that will make us and keep us spiritually fit and ready. First among these is the habit of prayer. While it may be a stretch for us to pray unceasingly, as St. Paul counsels in 1 Thessalonians, most of us can find a way to pray regularly. Consider the electric toothbrush. Its built-in two-minute timer frees the user to focus on the act of brushing rather than on the passage of time. We might profitably adopt such a mechanism as we strive this Advent to prepare for Christ by deepening our prayer life.  The simple act of setting a smartphone or a kitchen timer to five minutes—or ten, or twenty—will allow us to be fully present as we pray.  Within the frame of those five minutes—or ten, or twenty—we can express regret, give thanks, ask a favor, pray for those we love. We may not know when He will come, but we can prepare the way within our hearts by the daily practice of prayer.


Lord Almighty, Master of time, help me faithfully to set aside a few moments for prayer each day of Advent, so that I may be ever ready to welcome you. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.  

RELATED: Read all of our Advent reflections for 2016

Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill is an author, lecturer and Biblical scholar. She is the co-author, with Joseph Papp, of Shakespeare Alive! (Bantam Books), and is a contributor to Commonweal and America.

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Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
Ms. Cahill, yes, I agree with you that one should pray so as to be ready when the Lord comes. Prayer is at its best about “giving” not “getting,” GIVING the Lord a clear path to travel, on his journey to everyone. Jesus’s generosity makes sure the one who prays also “gets” so even though the one who prays awaiting the Lord is not playing the “getting game,” he/she will discover that having prayed produces a win/win situation, Jesus wins, the one who prays also wins. It’s good to know that one doesn’t have to be on knees with folded hands and eyes cast down, to be at prayer. It was either Aloysius Gonzaga, or John Berchmans, two Jesuit seminarians now canonized who said when asked what would he do if while recreating with other confreres he suddenly began to die. He answered, “I would continue recreating!” I understand this to mean that anything done in God’s name is a prayer. Prayer is an ingrained attitude, an intention, not a momentary attraction. The truly prayerful person is forever at prayer and that’s wonderful, meaning that if so graced we live continually in the presence of the Lord awaiting his arrival of the One Who has already arrived! Understandably you also wrote, “None of us truly understand what it means, ‘the son of Man will come’ .” I feel we don’t have to know, considering that for God there is neither past, or future, only an everlasting NOW. For me this means the Son of Man has already come for each one individually in God-time, understood in Earth-time through Faith’s illumination. This is how I understand the Lord’s promise to “Come.” We await the Coming of One Who has already Come, remembering that we’re dealing with mystery, something altogether “other” and beyond the here-and-now, although a part of it!


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