Readings: Is. 63: 16-17, 19; 64: 2-7 | 1 Cor. 1: 3-9 | Mk 13: 33-37
As we begin Advent, Jesus warns us to prepare ourselves because he might come suddenly. “Stay awake” is an alarm sounding on the first Sunday of advent. It means many different things, the most important of which is to seize the opportunities of the present moment, prepare for Christmas, prepare for death, yes, surely. But also, and more important, prepare for the kingdom of God whenever it explodes into your life.
There is a beautiful anecdote given by Msgr. Arthur Tonne clarifying the message of today’s gospel. Several years ago, a bus driver in Oklahoma reached an unusual record. In 23 years, he had driven a bus over 900,000 miles without a single accident. When asked how he had done it, he gave this simple answer: “I Watch the road.”
In today’s gospel Jesus gives the same advice in several ways: “Be vigilant at all times,” “Stand erect,” “Raise your heads,” “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy.” This is not only a good spiritual advice for the Advent season but also a safe rule for daily life. A good football player or basketball player should always concentrate his attention on the ball and the players. A good student must be alert, awake and attentive, watching the teacher and listening to his or her words. A good Christian must be physically and mentally alert, watching the altar and actively participating in the prayers and songs.
The word Advent means coming, the coming of our Lord. The Gospel warns us to stay awake while wait for the coming of the Lord. This calls for three-fold awareness:
- Awareness of self. Watch Yourself. “Be vigilant all times…” Know who you are and what you are. The longest and toughest journey is the journey inward, within yourself.
- Awareness of God. Wait for God. St. Bernard speaks of 3 comings of the Lord. He comes on Christmas day (1st reading), final day (Gospel), and every day (many ways). The toughest past is to recognize Him daily.
- Awareness of Others. Welcome others into your house. “…increase in love for one another…at the coming of the Lord.” “We learn the art of accompaniment (EG 169)
St. Paul in Romans advises us in his usual no-nonsense style: “Realize what time it is. It now high time to be awakened from sleep. For now, your salvation is nearer than when you believed.”
Christ warned – the need is to be on guard: stay alert. There are four reasons why we must keep watch.
- Because the time of the Lord’s return is unknown
- Because we have been given a specific task to do, and the job must be completed when Christ returns. The greatest tragedy would be not to have completed the job Christ gave us to do.
- Because Christ is returning unexpectedly, suddenly.
- Because we can be caught napping/sleeping.
Four tragic things can happen to us while we wait for the Lord to return.
- We may fail to wait long enough. As the days, weeks, and years wear on, we may grow more drowsy, nodding more and more
- We may delay or postpone or slack up in our work for the Lord. We may figure we have time to do it later, therefore, we feel that we can set it aside for a while. We feel that a little sidetrack here and there will not hurt that much.
- We may think we can go ahead and do what we wish and cover it with the Lord later. We may think we will have time to correct the matter before the Lord returns.
- We may begin to think like the world. However, God knows how the world thinks, and He has described it clearly for the sake of His dear followers. “And I’ll say to myself, I have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (Lk.12: 19-20)
Christ warned – the warning is to all – watch. No one is exempt: no believer, no unbeliever. Every man… is to be on guard! Be alert!”; … is to keep watch.
- Be on your guard; stand form in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (1 Cor 16:13)
- So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. (1 Th 5:6)
- But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim 4:5)
- The end of all things is near. Therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray (1 Pet 4:7)