One Sunday after Church, a mother was talking to her young daughter. She told her daughter that, according to the Bible, Jesus will return to earth someday. “When is he coming back?” the daughter asked. “I don’t know,” replied the mother. “Can’t you look it up on the Internet?” the little girl asked.
Ever since the attack on the World Trade center in New York on Sept 11, 2001 there have been nonstop warnings to be alert to possible terrorist attacks. Today’s Gospel gives us a strong warning to stay awake.
We are entering the Advent season. Advent means coming. We are invited to meditate on Jesus’ first coming in history as a baby in Bethlehem, his daily coming into our lives in mystery through the Sacraments, through the Bible and through the worshipping community and finally his Second Coming at the end of the world to reward the just and to punish the wicked.
We see the traditional signs of Advent in our Church: violet vestments and hangings, dried flowers or plain green plants and the Advent wreath. These signs remind us that we must prepare for the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives, enabling him to radiate his love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness around us.
In today’s Gospel Jesus warns us of the urgency of vigilant preparation on our part that we may meet him as our Judge both at the end of our lives on earth and on the day of the Last Judgment when he comes in his glory.
In a reference to the story of Noah, Jesus says that the sin of the people was placing too much emphasis on the normal cares and necessities of life. They were too concerned with eating and drinking. Jesus reminds us that there is something more important than feasts or weddings. The Son of Man will come to us unexpectedly, either at our death or at the end of the world, and that could be at any moment. Since God will show up without an appointment, we must be prepared at all times.
A man came to Buddha and asked him, “Tell me Buddha, are you a God?” “No, I am not a god.” “Are you an angel?” “No, I am not.” “Are you a prophet?” “No, not a prophet either.” “What are you then?” Whereupon Buddha answered. “I am awake.” Most of us are not awake. We are always in laziness. We are not aware of our own thoughts, feelings and actions. We function most of the time, like an automaton. The enlightened are those who are aware and awake.
St. Francis, Saint of Nature, was working in his garden one day. A philosopher friend approached him and asked, “What would you do if you learned you would die before the sun sets?” St. Francis reflected for a moment and replied, “I would finish my works in my garden. I would be faithful to what I am doing now.”
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. Mother Teresa of Calcutta 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.”
Once student devils were sent to the earth to finish their training. Satan interviewed them. To the first: “How will you operate?” he said: “I will instruct people that God does not exist.” The Devil said: “people know that our Enemy exists.” The next said: “I will argue that hell does not exist.” Satan said that people know hell exists.” The last said: “I will tell all that they have plenty of time.” Satan smiled and said: “Good woman. Do that and bring people here. Why can’t these male devils be as clever as you.?”
We are so future-oriented that we frequently forget the present entirely. We spend too much time trying to protect ourselves against future misfortunes. We save for a rainy day, to get married, to buy a home, to send the children to college, to retire in comfort and to protect ourselves against future misfortunes with varieties of insurance. But we need to be more spiritually wakeful to prepare for our eternal life. Let us make this Advent season the time of such preparation.