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Friday, 25 November 2016

Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent Year A By Fr. Munachi Ezeogu, CSSp

Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:37-44
On the Gospel, Making Ready for the Lord's Coming

John F. Kennedy is said to be very fond of a particular story. During his 1960 presidential campaign he often used it to close his speeches. It is the story of Colonel Davenport, Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives back in 1789. One day, while the House was in session, the sky of Hartford suddenly grew dark and gloomy. Some of the representatives looked out the windows and thought this was a sign that the end of the world had come. An uproar ensued with the representatives calling for immediate adjournment. But Davenport rose and said, “Gentlemen, the Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.” Candles were brought and the session continued.

Today’s gospel speaks about the coming of the Lord at the end of the world and how to prepare for it. In our world today, there are two big mistakes people make with regard to the coming of the Lord. One is to prepare for it with paranoid anxiety. The other is to dismiss it with nonchalant abandon and do nothing about it. What does the gospel tell us about the end of the world and how to prepare for it?

The gospel uses two images to make the point that “you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42b). One is the flood which overtook the unprepared people of Noah’s time. The other is the analogy of a thief in the night, who always comes unannounced. The Lord’s coming and the end of the world as we know it will occur suddenly and unexpectedly. It will come unannounced, springing a surprise on an unsuspecting world. Like a wise householder, therefore, we are urged to be watchful and ready.

What does it mean to be watchful and ready? It does not mean to go about listening to and getting excited over the end-of-time prophecies and visions that have multiplied in our day. Rather it is, as Colonel Davenport rightly says, to be more assiduous and faithful to our duties as responsible children of the world and of God. The early Christians used sleep as figurative language for the life of sinful indulgence. Paul says in 1Thessalonians 5:6-8

So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

To be awake, therefore, is to live a life of faithful service to the Lord, following the Lord’s commands and abiding in his grace. In fact, our gospel story today is followed by the Parable of the Wise Servant who faithfully carries out his master’s instructions while his master is on a journey. His master returns unexpectedly and finds the servant still following the instructions he gave him. In the same way, there is no better way for us to ready ourselves for the unexpected coming of the Lord at the end of time than faithfully carrying out his commands in our daily lives.

Why is it futile for us to run about in search of a calendar for the end-times and the Lord’s coming? Because actually the great Day of the Lord can overtake us individually any day, any time. The day we die is the day we appear before God. Why should I be stockpiling for the Day of the Lord in two or three years time when I am not even sure of tomorrow? For everyone of us there is an individual Day of the Lord, the day we appear in personal judgment before God and there is the general Day of the Lord, the day of general judgment of all humankind. The Day of the Lord is as near to each of us as the day of our death, which could be any day.

As we begin today a new cycle of the church’s year of grace, let us resolve to shun the doomsday paranoia on the one hand and reckless complacency on the other. Let us resolve to be always awake in the spirit by living a life of faith and love in service to the Lord so that whenever he comes we shall be ready to follow him into the glory of eternity.

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