Clearing Away the Distractions

On this Second Sunday of Advent, the first reading from the prophet Isaiah (Is 40:1-5, 9-11) and the prologue to the Gospel of Mark (Mk 1:1-8) both proclaim the message to “Prepare the way of the Lord!” Sandwiched between the first reading and the Gospel, the second reading (2 Pt 3:8-14) urges Christians to repent and prepare for the Second Coming, or Parousia. The early Christians to whom Peter was writing were becoming impatient and losing hope that Christ was going to come again. This letter assured them that Christ will come again, despite the delay and unknown time of arrival. There is no missing the themes of preparation and repentance in this week’s readings. But I am left wondering how do I prepare and for what exactly am I preparing during this Advent of 2008?

The first half of the Advent season focuses on the Parousia, or the Second Coming of Christ, and then the third and fourth weeks remember when God first entered the world with Jesus’ birth. This week in spiritual direction, I explained to my director that my mind wanders frequently during prayer. The other morning, my mind drifted and I began thinking about the Second Coming. Would God come as a woman next time? What nationality/ethnicity or even socio-economic background would God assume? Then my mind jumped to, “Will I recognize ‘her’ or will I be too busy doing other things to even stop and notice?” My spiritual director said to me, “Never mind the first and second coming, what about Christ being present now?”

The opening prayer for the liturgy on this Second Sunday of Advent asks God to “open our hearts in welcome” and to “remove the things that hinder us from receiving joy.” This prayer is a prayer for the present. So as we read or hear the readings this Second Sunday of Advent, it seems that this season of preparation should not only remind us of what God did through the Incarnation or what the risen Christ will do when “she” comes again, but how we can enter into this mystery now. Often times, this means clearing away the distractions that hinder us from recognizing Christ in our midst in this very moment.

M. Nelle Carty is working on clearing away the distractions, but still very easily distracted. She is especially looking forward to the end of this academic semester when she can spend time with family and loved ones.

Image painted by Robert Hutchinson, “Advent.” Used with permission. http://www.rogerpaintings.com

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