Nov 30, 2013

1st Sunday of Advent: Wake up and pay attention!

"The Son of Man will come"

Is 2: 1-5
Rm 13: 11-14
Mt 24: 37 – 44

Some of us are very good at finding time for leisure and others may find themselves caught up in the work a day world and make little time for a healthy break now and then.  In the extreme we may know people we would describe as “work-a-holics” and others we may wonder what could motivate them to get going.  Others are very good at detail work while others care little about details and find themselves constantly fixed on the big picture. 

The point of all this is that while the extremes of how we spend our time in a balance between work and pleasure is important, the key to success is to stay focused on a meaningful accomplishment.  For us Christians, in this liturgical season we call Advent, the meaningful focus for all of us is the importance of paying attention and being alert for the coming of Christ.  As we hear in the Gospel this Sunday: “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

On one level this may strike a bit of fear in our hearts and on another level some relief. What are we to do? St. Paul in the second reading advises us: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light . . .” It is obviously true that we know “not the day or the hour” of Jesus' second coming to earth.  Likewise, we don’t know the day when we will be called from this life to eternal life.  But as those days and times approach, we need not fear if we live in a spirit of vigilance.  If our lives reflect faithfulness to the Lord’s commands, if we are using our time well and live in a healthy balance between the things of this world and the things of the spirit, then we need not fear. Yet, our lives are essentially a balance, almost a tension, between the material and spiritual.  

Advent is clearly a time to prepare for the Lord’s coming among us.  A time to find a good balance between our lives in this life and those of the next. In the beginning of Advent we see the big picture – the end times. Our lives now are a space between when Jesus, born on this earth as a helpless child, returns as the risen and victorious King who comes for the final judgment and the final destruction of evil.  That may sound a far way off to our ears, however.  Looking at the signs of the time in which we live, we wonder if evil will ever be destroyed. But the Gospel reminds us to not be fooled and lulled into complacency, “As it was in the days of Noah . . . in those days before the flood . . .”

Each and every day of our lives we are called to discern where God is present in the daily events of our lives.  The future holds wonders which remain hidden from us now. Yet, if all we ever do is stare out the window with hopes for something better, assuming the grass will be greener somewhere else, then we are missing the present opportunity. Advent brings us hope and light.  Though the great King will come at some future time, we have no control over that.  But he is present to us now in sacrament, in prayer, in the call to serve one another in love, in our friends, family and strangers. Christ comes today to teach us how to live so are we paying attention?

In a world which has become somewhat obsessed with fear and materialism which never fulfills completely, Advent hope in Christ’s presence among us is a message rich and beautiful. We make Christ present to others when we do good for them, when we pray for them, when we do not judge but forgive.  All of this may well create a longing in us as Jesus approaches at Christmastime.
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.
(Collect: Roman Missal)