1st Sunday of Advent Year A – 16
Is.2:1-5, Rom.13:11-14, Matt.24:36-44
A lady, raised as a vegetarian, hardly ever saw a piece of meat growing up. When she married a man, who loved meat, they had meat all the time.
One Thanksgiving while they and their children were having dinner, the husband announced to the children: “Your mother didn’t know what a turkey was until she met me.” I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.
One time a man was watching TV with 2 friends. Both were heavy smokers. They said they could never stop smoking. Not long afterwards each of them had a heart attack. One died immediately but the other survived.
His doctor told him to stop smoking or he would die. He believed the heart attack was a warning, a wake-up call to him and he stopped. It is hard to know why one died and the other survived. Can we not say that the gospel today is a wake-up call from God?
Jesus says to his listeners: “Stay awake because you do not know the hour when your master is coming”. And he uses two little examples from their history to remind us about the unexpected coming of Christ, the Son of Man at the end of time.
How will you and I heed, pay attention to this invitation? Will we neglect it or be like the man in the story above who heard the call and took the steps necessary to respond for his own good.
In today’s first reading we hear the prophet Isaiah calling us to climb to the top of the mountain and look for the Lord’s advent, the Lord’s coming into our lives. At the end of today’s first reading when we hear Isaiah cry out, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
We need to understand that Isaiah isn’t simply talking about nature’s daylight nighttime’s darkness, he is talking about what we see with our minds and hearts. He’s calling us to rise above our daily worries, concerns and anxieties in order to take a look over the whole of our lives with all of their peaks and valleys.
As Christians, we do that in the vision of Christ, the Light of the World, God’s gift to us. The problem you and I face comes not from the fact that we are unconcerned or apathetic or lazy. The problem you and I have is that we’re far too concerned about so many other things.
Often these are legitimate concerns, worries that are thrust upon us by the world in which we live. We are so caught up in all of the events of our days that we do not pay attention to our souls, our inner spirits, and our inner selves.
This spiritual blindness is spoken of in biblical language as darkness. And what do we do in darkness? Usually we sleep. We sleep because we shut down, tune out, and turn off.
When we, through accident, through chance, or in some other unexpected event, become aware of God’s activity in our lives, we suddenly pay attention — we wake up. And in that moment of waking up we likely think that God’s coming to us is sudden, unexpected, startling.
God has always been there. He is actively present to us all of the time, each and every day. It’s our awareness of Him that has changed. God hasn’t changed in the slightest way. He is constant; He is always present. It is we who are inconstant, changeable and inattentive.
We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives every day.
God is always offering Himself to us. We, however, are not always responding because we’re not paying attention. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness respond to His offer of Himself to us. We have to “see the Light,” so to speak.
Our lives are cluttered with too many things demanding our attention, draining us of our energies, and blinding us to the big picture. Money only goes so far. Technology can only do so much. Medicines have a short shelf life.
All of our human resources are limited. Only God has what we need. He has all that we need in an inexhaustible supply. The man working in the field and the woman working at the mill will be “left”, because they won’t leave their work. True enough – work is important.
We need to provide food and shelter for ourselves and our families. But there is something more important than our work: the coming of the Son of Man. God will arrive unexpectedly. We don’t know when a thief might break into our house, so we are prepared for him at all times.
We lock our doors and windows. We leave a light on when we’re gone. We put in an alarm system. We insure our possessions. We do these things now because a thief could come at some unknown time. Hence, even during this busy Christmas season we must keep our daily life centered on Christ.
Can we look ahead? Yes, we can… if we take the time and make the space to do so. Can we trace the writing of God’s finger as He sends us His messages? We can. Can we seize the opportunity to make time during Advent to come to some daily Advent Masses?
Attend Communal Penance Services? Read from the bible? Spend extra time in thoughtful reflection and quiet prayer? We can. But that is not the issue. The big question is not what we can do – it’s what we will do. It’s our will that is controlling, not our wishes.
As your teachers taught you in school, the Greek philosopher Plato (who lived four hundred years before Christ) declared, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Every Advent, and indeed every time we come here to Mass, Holy Mother Church bids us to examine our lives.
Once again, we enter into and begin our journey through Advent, hopefully looking for the coming of the Lord into our lives. And so, I repeat to you the words of St. Paul, remembering that the Romans back in those days lived in a culture not altogether different from the one in which we presently live:
“Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”
In the words of Jesus, you just heard in today’s gospel account: “So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Now the question is, how to be alert and watchful in the spirit of today’s Gospel. Every morning when we get up, let us pray, “Lord, show me someone today with whom I may share your love, mercy and forgiveness.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), once said, “Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus.” Every night when we go to bed, let us ask ourselves, “Where have I found Christ today?”
The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful, we’ll be getting an extra gift: Christ himself. There is a saying about being saved which goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas: “Without God, I can’t. Without me, He won’t.” Amen.