The First Sunday of Advent, 2016
“Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, 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.” (Mt 24: 43-44)
Today’s Gospel is somber, a warning. It’s part of a long discourse on the end of time. In some ways, that’s a very strange way to start the Advent season: we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Lord by focusing on the end of time. Is this a happy event, or a calamity? What’s up?
The “coming of the Lord” refers to at least three different things. First, of course it refers to Christmas – 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem and also this year in our lives. Second, more obvious in today’s reading, it refers to the coming of the Son of Man at the end of time, when we will be judged. The approach of the end should sober us up a bit, but it’s not necessarily a calamity. Read C. S. Lewis’s Narnian Chronicles, and in particular The Last Battle; Lewis’s picture of the end of time is deeply delightful! But third, when Jesus describes his coming as judge, he describes the many ways he comes to us throughout our lives.
When I was hungry, when I was thirsty, when I was a stranger, when I was naked, when I was sick, when I was in prison – you cared for me. When Jesus says that, we respond that we don’t remember it at all. He clarifies: whatever you did for the least of my people, you did for me. So that’s a source of deep joy – if indeed we did serve his people when they showed up in our lives.
In today’s reading, Jesus say we must be prepared, because he will come at an hour we do not expect. In that same discourse, a little farther on (Matthew 25:31 ff), he adds that he will come – not just at an hour we don’t expect, but also in a way we do not expect.
So be ready! Hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned: he comes! Make him welcome!
[meditation on immigration in the light of the Gospel, Year A]