Readings: Isaiah 2: 1-5; Psalm 122, R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44
“With one foot raised”—this is one of the virtues or graces the early Jesuits were honed in. It gives us a clear image of the readiness for mission, the availability to go wherever the greater need is.
A more familiar phrase is to “hit the ground running.” It signifies the readiness to swing into action from the very start.
“With one foot raised” goes deeper than this readiness. It is an active waiting—living our day-to-day life in anticipation of that which we wait for.
This is the grace and spirit of the Advent season which begins today, the First Sunday of Advent. It is a season of grace, remembering the “final chapter” in the trilogy of the mystery of our faith: Christ will come again.
Today’s Gospel—as well as the Gospel readings of the past week—puts it apocalyptically with signs that accompany the “end times.”
But the main point is not so much these signs, but our preparedness for the “end”: “So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Matthew 24: 44)
How does one prepare? How does one enter into a state of active waiting, with one foot raised?
Let us look at three points: 1) the clarity of what or who it is that we anticipate; 2) the discerning stance of this waiting; and 3) the epitome of active waiting.
What gives us clarity are our dreams, which define the journey we have taken. Advent is a time to renew, to go back to, and to reconnect with these core dreams. These are what I often refer to as the core inspirations of our life.
To attain this clarity, we need to make choices. This is where the second point comes in. The discerning stance or attitude of this waiting now comes into play as we make our choices.
We discern what leads us closer to our dream and what is more spiritually aligned with our mission. Discernment involves our whole being, our intellect, our emotions, our spiritual instincts and the story of our journey.
In the interiority of this discernment, we sense with our mind, heart and soul the presence of God in our story. It’s a presence that is always providential and always loving.
This completes the state of active waiting, the clarity of who we wait for and the quality of the waiting. It’s actively waiting for God in love, receiving his love and returning our love.
We can liken this active waiting to what is called deliberate practice.
The notion of deliberate practice tells us that to develop mastery or excellence in a field, e.g., sports or the performing arts, the idea of “practice makes perfect” is lacking or can even be misleading.
What brings one closer to excellence, “the perfect,” is deliberate practice—where there is a clear and constant feedback loop that allows us to see how well we did, what was wrong and what we can improve.
This allows us to make the right choices and to act accordingly. This process deepens our personal investment in the process of active waiting, with an increase in the being active part. We push ourselves and go for the more.
This is the third phase, the epitome of active waiting. It is to live our day to day doing inspired activity—prayer, work, nurturing relationships, caring for our self, service, etc.—with great love and a great soul because deep down we know that “[we] have eternity in which to rest.”
All the means are now aligned to the “end,” the one we wait for: the clarity of mission, all the choices we make, how we live our life daily with all its activities done and lived with a greatness of heart and soul happen, not in a frenetic manner, but with serenity and grace.
This is the active waiting of Advent, longing to rest in eternity which is perfect union in love with God and eternity who is God himself.
The grace of Advent is to live a life renewed “with one foot raised,” actively waiting for the God who came to be Emmanuel and who will come again.