Given the uncertainties in life, Jesus’ words in the Gospel is clearly at odds with people’s expectation on the First Sunday of Advent, “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.” (Mt. 24:37-39) Ugh! Just when we keep our lives busy, engaged in the daily grind to prepare for the rainy days, the specter of God’s judgment comes along, crashing us down and sweeping us all away. How’s that for thanksgiving weekend?
Further, he mentioned, “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Mt. 24: 40-42). At a time of feasting and merry-making in America, families sitting together attending Mass prefer something else and for heaven’s sake, take that doom and gloom and signs of the end off the pulpit, please. However, Jesus knows better than anyone else about what really matters in life, spells it out and gives us a heads up on things to come. What’s scary about this scenario is that the day will arrive while people are out in the field harvesting cottons, grinding at the mill, in school session, trading stocks, driving, playing sports, running errands, eating and drinking, in short, when people are engaged in normal, everyday activities. Those taken up are the ones who, despite the temptations and signs shown and revealed, remained undistracted, kept their focus intact and manifest their faith in Christ, while the others left behind did just the exact opposite. So, when is when? “Therefore, you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” Mt. 24:44. Sadly, no one knows. The day will come unexpectedly without prior notice. What are we supposed to do then? Let’s get on with our jobs since doing so is necessary to survive in a tough society but we also need to constantly prepare for the unannounced arrival of that day.
Let’s check out what Paul had to say in the second reading, “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Rom. 13:11-14).
Paul succinctly illustrated above that it is time to wake up and get dressed, time to put on, adopt and imitate Jesus divine brand and extraordinary lifestyle, time to lead a descent and remarkably transformed life, time to get rid of things that dull and intoxicate the senses, time to stop feeding the soul with garbage, time to put aside partying, drunkenness and outrageous behavior, quarreling and jealousy- the very things that scandalize unbelievers and fellows, as well, embarrass the community, hurt feelings and fracture relationships.
As I skimmed through the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading, he seemed to know very well what’s happening in the America shores and the international community. He takes us up to the mountain and shares what he saw, “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills and all nations shall stream toward it” (Isa. 2:2). He tells us that time will come when people from different corners of the globe will be drawn to God, seek him, press toward him, and converge at a spiritual zone “that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Isa. 2:3).
He envisioned that “God will judge the nations and help settle disputes, weapons of mass distractions will be laid down and nuclear threats will cease” and turned into instruments of love, rather than violence, possibly close bases at home and abroad, shut down training camps and phase out the armed forces, potent symbols of US military might. Extremely hard to believe this will happen, talk about US ending the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and entering into peace treaty with the Al-Qaeda. On the face of it, sounds like an exaggeration and a real stretch, yet, it is my hope and maybe, yours. This text was penned myriads of centuries past but still speaks to the current US joint S Korea vs. the North, which as reported, is in the brink of war.
Isaiah doesn’t simply talk about global change but invites readers to think big, look beyond, aim for a brighter and peaceful future and live accordingly “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the world”(Isa. 2:5). Though his vision doesn’t even come close, meanwhile, we’re asked to walk in God’s light, make his presence felt, evident and compelling every step of the way. Amen.