BE WATCHFUL! BE ALERT

1st Sunday of Advent        

            During the onslaught of the super typhoon Yolanda many poor families chose to stay in their houses despite the strong warning from the government. Some simply had no choice but to stay. One such family – I know to be very religious – shared with me how they survived that typhoon inside their home. While their old, shaky house was being battered, they were just practically huddling the whole time.

            The Book of Psalms seemed to speak best to the family’s situation. David wrote some of them while trapped in situations like theirs – frightened, helpless, not knowing what was ahead, but trusting in God. The father of that family told me, “If rescue came, it would have to come from God.” Waiting like this was not easy.

            By the way, one of the prayers the family prayed was Psalm 130 – a portion of it says: “I wait eagerly for the Lord’s help, and in his word I trust. I wait for the Lord more eagerly than watchmen wait for the dawn.” The family themselves told me that had they not had the Word of God to strengthen them, they could have easily lost hope.

            It was the same way with Israel as they waited for the Messiah. Had they not had the Word of God to comfort them, they could have easily lost hope. But Advent is not just a time when we recall and relive Israel’s waiting for the Messiah, Jesus. It is much more than that. According to Mark Link, in his Sunday Homilies, Advent is also a time when we recall that Jesus will return at the end of history – at a time we least expect. That is why Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, says, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

            Advent reminds us that we live in the important interval between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming. Our job, according to Mark Link, is not to sit piously and stare at the sky, recalling the first coming of Jesus and anticipating his second coming. Our job is to carry on Christ’s mission and complete his work. We are to perform the mission the Lord gave us.

            We proclaim the mystery of our faith in these words: “Christ had died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Until the Lord comes again, we must be about the work he gave us to do. Advent is a time when we call to mind, in a special way, that when Christ returns he will judge us on how well we worked to spread God’s kingdom on earth.

            Remember the Parable of the Last Judgment we heard last Sunday: The King will ask us: Did you feed the hungry, not only with material food, but with attention and consideration, care, and concern? Did you nourish them with godly things? Did you quench your neighbors’ thirst for understanding and acceptance for who they are, with warts and all? Did you help them to satisfy their need for God’s love? Did you welcome the strangers, the lonely, the rejected, the ostracized, the losers? Did you make them feel accepted when they were feeling unwanted? Did you clothe the naked with decency and respect? Did you protect their dignity as God’s children? Did you cover and shield them from abuse? Did you care for the ill, including those who are sick because of depression, abuse, and addiction? Did you help them with their mental health and spiritual wellbeing? Did you visit the imprisoned, give them a second chance, and help them as they try to redeem themselves? Did you help in their restoration? Did you treat the poor with mercy and compassion? Did you show and extend practical charity to them? “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me.”

            Let us end with a prayer: Jesus, give us Your strength. For sometimes things get rough, and we want to quit. Jesus, give us Your love. For sometimes people reject us and we want to hate. Jesus, give us Your eyes. For sometimes life gets cloudy and dark and we lose our way. Jesus, give us Yourself. Our hearts are made for You, and they will not rest until they rest in You. Amen.         

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