Be Prepared! You do not Know the Day or the Hour
Today is the First Sunday of Advent and the beginning of the new liturgical year during which we will be reading the Gospel of Mark. The word “advent” comes from the Latin advenio meaning “to come to,” and refers to the coming of Christ. There are two advents of Christ which the Church asks us to prepare for during this season: the first is obviously preparation for His coming at Christmas, while the second is preparation for His Second Coming in glory at the end of time, when the Final Judgement will take place, and we heard about that in last week’s Gospel (Matthew 25:31-46). This is the coming which is referred to again in today’s reading from the Gospel of St Mark (13:33-37).
Our Lord stresses that we do not know when He will return and therefore we must be vigilant, watch and pray. But we might ask, why didn’t He tell us when He would return? Surely it would be better for us to know? We must realise if God chooses not to reveal something to us it is always for our benefit. St Thomas Aquinas points out that if we did know, we would be careless and be tempted to put off our conversion to the end. But such an attitude would be very dangerous since we cannot guarantee to reform our lives in the last moments: we would likely be steeped in sin and therefore conversion will never take place. And neither can we guarantee the opportunity. Death, as St Paul tells us, can come unexpectedly, “like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). We will also be happier in this life if we strive for virtue and to live according to God’s Law.
Therefore Advent, like Lent is a time of conversion and penance, although perhaps less rigorous than Lent. The penitential aspect is reflected by the omission of the Gloria during Mass and the use of violet vestments. So it’s a time when we should strive ever more to do God’s will. This always begins with avoiding sin and going to confession when we fail. It also means using our talents in the service of others – performing the works of mercy for example. And then we have privileged knowledge. Many today do not know about Christ and His Kingdom and so it’s up to us to tell them. Like Noah, we want to get as many as possible inside the Ark of the Church, so that when the final day does come they won’t get caught in the flood!
Fr Paul Gillham IC