First Sunday of Advent – Year C Is 2:1-5; Ps 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44
Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season that comes right before the celebration of Christmas. After four short weeks, hopefully we’ll have prepared ourselves to receive the great gift of our Redeemer.
Since Christmas is such a happy time, today’s Gospel might have surprised us: Jesus talks about the flood, and warns us to pay attention and be ready. Indeed, His words seem rather frightening: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.”
What does Jesus mean to tell us with this? At the time of the flood, there were so many people, all over the planet, all engaged in what we could call the “everyday drama of life”: some are at peace, some at war, some weeping, laughing, and the like. They are just going about their business, or so they think. They are just going about their business, but really this is the slow, silent path to hell. See how in their blindness they commit any number of sins, how they live in great forgetfulness of God, ignorant of the Trinity’s great love for them. They simply walk right into the yawning gates of Hell, which have opened up for them and are happy to receive them. “The safest road to hell,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turning, without milestones, without signposts.”
This is the danger, we could say, of routine. Routine means simply doing the same thing, time and again, without really engaging reality. That is why the time of Advent is so important for us: we need to get out of the routine, and really think about the Second Coming of Christ.
Of course, this shouldn’t frighten us! However, it should remind us that the future life, in heaven or in hell, depends on what we do now, how we live this life. Here, Jesus also issues a warning: “if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” This saying reminds us of other, similar ones that we find in the New Testament, where Christ tells us that He will come like “a thief in the night.” Thieves, of course, don’t give any warning that they are coming; the home owner must always be ready. Christ’s coming will be sudden and, although we can read the signs of the times, we don’t know the precise hour or day. To the one who is unprepared, Christ’s Second coming will not be a welcome surprise at all, just like the punishment the servants would receive if the master returned to find them all asleep or the steward who lived poorly and led others astray because he forgot that at some point, his master would return.
What is it, then, that Christ wants us to do? He tells us to keep watch, to be ready for whenever He returns. How do we do this? By always trying to grow in holiness, to keep striving after perfection. If we find that we’re frightened or worried about Christ’s second coming, or wish that it would be later rather than sooner, we should examine ourselves to see how we are living. If we are afraid of death or the second coming, the problem is not with Christ, but with us and the way we live. A pastor once used to ask his flock, “Do you think Jesus will come today?” Of course, most people told him “No,” to which he would reply, “Be careful! He’ll come when you least expect it!” How differently we would live if we really thought to ourselves, “Jesus will come today!” But, this is the attitude Jesus is asking for!
To be vigilant means to be ready to go to heaven, and to live my life in light of it. It means trying to follow God’s commandments, which “are not burdensome,” (1 Jn 5:3) as Saint John tells us. God gives us all the graces that we need to get there; all we need to do it live every day in light of it.
Let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Hope, for the grace to never tired in our service of God and our neighbors, and to pray constantly, asking God for His never-failing assistance. As we being our Advent journey, let us go to seek Christ with hearts full of hope.