Be prepared

When all the people asked John the Baptist, ‘what must we do?’ he answered, ‘if anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’

I was part of the Scouting movement for many years, in some form or another. It was a time when I had a great deal of fun, helping running groups joining in the activities that the boys and girls had the opportunity to take part in, teaching them how to do so many things. There was always a feeling of family whenever I was with them; no matter who you were, you were always accepted for being you.

The one thing I often look back on with more than a little bit of impish fun is the Scouts moto ‘be prepared’; not because the moto was funny, far from it, but because it often seemed to me that they were far from prepared, there was always the best of intention and quite a bit of planning but something would always go wrong or be missing.

Now if you want to see ‘prepared’ look no further than the Guides, they would have everything for everyone and for every eventuality. Having been camping with both groups on more than one occasion I have first-hand experience of this. However, being prepared is not the be all and end all, the Guides may seem better prepared but the Scouts seem to have a lot more fun.

To understand this season of Advent we first need to understand the cycle of our Christian year. If we think of the year as a journey along the road to salvation, with each season, each feast day marking our progression along the road, starting with Advent Sunday and ending with Christ the King, Advent can be seen as the time before Christ came into the world and of Christ the King when we see Christ in the second coming seated on the his throne of glory.

In effect we are very much like the Jewish nation in the Old Testament, we are looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, preparing ourselves for the coming of the Saviour.

Advent is not always easy for us, the more the world becomes a secular one the harder this season becomes to observe, while the people around us have already started their celebration, we are called to be reflective, penitent, sober.

We often have to juggle between one and the other, but this is a time to have a good look at our lives in both directions, that is in our secular lives as well as our spiritual lives, to see where we could be going wrong, to make straight the path within us in preparation for the coming of our Saviour.

It can be all too easy to be selfish, wanting the latest ‘this’ demanding the latest ‘that’.

Even our expectation of others can be seen as selfish, particularly if our expectation can be hard to fulfil and of course the opposite also applies, not willing to give even a little. This should be a reminder to ourselves that we are called to be selfless, as God is selfless by giving us his only son so that we may be one with him.

 

In the Gospel John is asked ‘what must we do’ his answer was to give to those who have nothing, be honest in all that you do, be satisfied it what is given you. So not only do we need to look at our lives and be penitent, but we also are required to be proactive and not just listen to the Word but act upon it.

Today is Gaudete Sunday and as we can see it is a little different from the rest of Advent. Instead of the penitential purple, which is the usual colour for the season we have a rose coloured candle in our Advent wreath, and if we had them we would be wearing rose coloured vestments as well.

We are still required to be reflective, penitent, but the difference is that there is a great anticipation that the coming of Christ is near at hand and that we are to be joyful and rejoice. “Gaudete in Domino semper”, ‘rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near’, that is today’s entrance antiphon from which today gets its name ‘Gaudete, Rejoice’.

This is the day where we should have a bigger chocolate in our Advent Calendar. So let’s be like the Scouts and the Guides, and ‘be prepared’, but let us also be exited, shout for joy daughters of Zion, for the Lord is near.