Sunday, Nov. 27, is the First Sunday of Advent (Year A). Mass Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalms 122:1-9, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:37-44.
The Gospel today is a shocker: Jesus is warning about the end of time. But his warning could very well be about our own time. After all, St. Faustina heard Jesus tell her these words, early in the 20th century: “You will prepare the world for my final coming.”
Did he mean remote preparation? Possibly. What we do know, from today’s readings, is that we will be surprised when Jesus comes again — and so we should prepare.
First, this Advent prepare yourself for judgment — you, yourself, alone.
“You know the time,” says St. Paul in today’s first reading. “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.”
Pope Benedict, commenting on today’s readings, said: “Man is the one creature free to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to eternity, that is, to God. The human being is able to extinguish hope within him, eliminating God from his life.”
In the second reading, St. Paul lists the ways people can do this: “promiscuity and lust … rivalry and jealousy.”
St. Paul offers another way, though: “Let us, then, throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. … But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”
Preparing yourself for judgment requires a very deliberate effort — it means avoiding what leads you to sin and doing those things which “arm you with light”: praying, giving alms and fasting.
Second, prepare your family to meet Jesus.
If St. Paul is speaking to individuals who must prepare themselves, Jesus in the Gospel seems to be referring to families.
As in the days of Noah, he said, “when people were marrying and giving in marriage,” the judgment to come will be like a household under attack.
“If the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,” he says, “he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
So we must not only prepare ourselves, but our families, as well. In Advent, as Pope Francis put it, “This is the great mission of the family: to make room for Jesus who is coming, to welcome Jesus in the family, in each member: children, husband, wife, grandparents .... in order that he grow spiritually in the family.”
Third, prepare our nation.
Jesus points out that not just our families are in danger — our co-workers are, too. “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left,” he says. “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.”
In fact, we won’t be judged only as individuals and families. “He shall judge between the nations,” says the first reading, “and impose terms on many peoples.”
How will America be judged?
“God is the future of the human person and of the world,” St. John Paul II said of today’s readings. “If humanity loses the meaning of God, it will close itself to the future. … Christ is the hope of humanity. He is the true meaning of our present, because he is our sure future.”
This Advent, our final responsibility is to more than ourselves and our families. Our other responsibility is to our neighbors, our communities and our nation. Wishing you a blessed Advent!
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
He is the author of What Pope Francis Really Said.