1 Advent B – November 27, 2011 – See Something, Say Something
In July 2010 the Department of Homeland Security launched a nationwide campaign: “If you see something, say something.” The slogan is a way to raise public awareness of potential terrorist activity and public crime and to report it to law enforcement authorities. Such periodic reminders are helpful to us. According to some studies large numbers of humans beings, preoccupied with their routines, distractions, their own agendas, do not always pay attention to what is going on around them.
Today we begin a new liturgical year and the bible suggests that we stay alert. Besides following a new translation at Mass what else are we to be on the watch for? Is it the end of time, the second coming of Christ? This expectation can be confusing if we imagine that Jesus is going to come back. The Jesus of history was one aspect of the revelation of God which, continues in the spirit, and is constantly unfolding in us, and among us. So what are we looking for?
Although it is the popular assumption, the season of Advent is not only about getting ready to celebrate the birthday of Jesus. The historical evolution of the feast certainly has captured our imaginations and has instigated a commercial phenomenon. However, Christmas is also about hoping for and setting in motion the fuller realization of the presence of God among us.
What else then are we watching for? Are we looking for better days ahead? The first reading takes us to the time after the exile of the Israelites. Think of it as the end of the financial mess the world is in today. The Israelites had high hopes for a brighter tomorrow like we do. Nothing seemed to be happening and so they let out cries for divine intervention. Like the psalm today — just let us see your face, God, and we know we will be OK. The prophet Isaiah answered them in a surprising way. The last line in today’s reading is pivotal — we are the clay and God is the potter. God shapes us as a human family and in response we continue to shape our lives and world we live in.
The gospel of Mark, which we will read during this liturgical year, was written during or just after the Jewish War in Rome (66-70 CE) and asserts Jesus as the messiah. In today’s selection we find another image — that of a doorkeeper. While away, the homeowner put servants in charge each with a certain job to do. God may not always be apparent among us today, we may not always see God’s face, but God put each of us in charge with something to do while we watch for the full experience of God to emerge in our lives. Doing something good, positive and constructive in life opens doors of opportunities for ourselves and others.
Plainly, it seems that Advent is less about waiting for God to appear and more about how alert we are to the nonstop, unfolding presence of God within us and among us. This requires both faith and good work as potters and doorkeepers. By doing something to develop our own lives and the lives of others, by speaking up when we notice that something is not right, by taking risks to counter the status quo, we are effective disciples of Christ.
The list of problems surrounding us in the world is long and even the happiest of moments cannot erase it. Many people are already hoping this holiday season will provide a palliative to counter the jittery global economy, unemployment, broken down family life, large tuition and mortgage bills. Being called as Christians to address these concerns is one more task for us at a time when there are already so many challenges in our lives.
The season of Advent, however, can be a spiritual re-awakening for us depending on how alert we are willing to be. How can we feel alive in the world is a question posed by the author and educator Maxine Greene. She suggests that we become more alive by being wide awake to everyone and everything around us. 
See something, say something; say something, do something.
1 Maxine Greene, “Toward Wide-Awakeness: An Argument for the Arts and Humanities in Education” in Teacher’s College Quarterly, September 1977, Volume 79, Number 1 pages 119-125