Nov. 28, 2010 – First Sunday of Advent
That does not mean we have to view our Faith as a hellfire and damnation sort of religion. Not at all! But it is equally true that complacency is contrary to a healthy spiritual condition.
Jesus himself urged us to always be ready. In the Gospel reading from Matthew 24, we read, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come… So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
St. Paul in Romans 13 also exhorts us to be awake and alert. “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep… The night is advanced, the day is at hand.” And our wakefulness is for a purpose, so we can be prepared, spiritually and morally, to meet Jesus Christ in glory. As Paul put it, “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Centuries before the coming of Jesus, Isaiah had seen a vision of the glorious life that would ensue when God’s Kingdom was established in its fullness. According to the second chapter of his prophecy, all nations will come to Jerusalem to seek instruction from the Lord. There he will judge the nations and establish universal peace.
In fact, there is really a two-fold message in these readings. The first is that we are to be ready. We are called to watch, for we do not know when Jesus will return.
Therefore, we need to be awake and alert, so we will be prepared when he does come. The fact that he has delayed, to give as many people as possible opportunity to repent, does not mean he will postpone his return forever. Besides, even if he has not come, we cannot know for sure when we will go to him. Auto accident, natural disaster, violent crime – any of these things can cut short our lives here on earth. We need always to be prepared.
The other message is that there is a judgment, and Jesus is the judge. It’s an article of the faith. As the Apostles’ Creed puts it, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” That means that we will have to explain what we did with the time and talent and treasure God entrusted to us throughout our lives.
What sort of an account will you be able to give? Will you be like the servant who accepted the five talents (a large sum of money) and worked to double the amount? Or will you be like the one in Matthew 25 who took it and hid it?
But if we stay awake and try to use what God has entrusted to us so we can return God’s gifts with increase, we do not need to fear excessively. For we also read in the Catechism (679), “Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He ‘acquired’ this right by his cross… Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.”
This echoes what St. John wrote about Jesus’ mission, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
Jesus Christ is not the sort of judge who delights in condemning. In his judgments, perfect mercy and perfect justice meet. As we read, he came to save, not to judge. If we have used the gifts and graces we’ve received as best we can, there is no need for us to fear.
So how do you approach this Advent Season? First, stay awake, or wake up if you’ve fallen asleep spiritually. We can’t know when Jesus will come, or when we’ll go to him. Second, evaluate what sort of steward you’ve been. What kind of account can you give? If it’s not satisfactory, begin now to prepare to meet our loving Judge, Jesus Christ. It’s time to begin.