First Sunday of Advent
Matthew 24:37-44 Keep awake
The 2007 film The Bucket List stars Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson as two terminally ill men who put together a wish-list of things to do before they ‘kick the bucket’. They do a skydive, get tattoos and visit the pyramids. Some of the items on the list are more abstract: witnesses something truly majestic, help a total stranger for the good, find the joy in life. Of course, we would live very differently if we knew our days were numbered. Sometimes it is only when the fragility of life is laid bare that we manage to get our priorities in order. Everything can change in an instant, with a phone call, an accident, the death of someone we love. These are the moments that stop us in our tracks. They come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.
As we begin Advent, a season of joy and expectation, this might seem like a gloomy Gospel to reflect on. Its tone is apocalyptic, but when Matthew was writing his Gospel, his community had these questions at the forefront of their minds: When will Jesus return? What signs will there be? Why is it taking so long? Jesus does not offer an answer to this question except to say, ‘Keep awake!’ Instead of worrying about questions that we cannot possibly know the answer to, we might remember that what is important is how we are living now, today, in the present moment. Are we living aware of Christ present here and now in each person and in all of creation? Awakening to this miracle of universal love is a second coming or re-awakening we can get on board with. Advent is a very special time, a liminal space where we are full of expectant hope. It is an opportunity to take stock and see what is truly important; then we can experience the true joy which the season offers. Today’s Gospel invites us to be ready, not on tenterhooks and full of anxiety, but to be attentive, with open hearts, so that God’s grace and love can enter once more this Christmas.
Copyright © Triona Doherty & Jane Mellett, Year of Matthew: 2022
“God’s hope for history seems to be that humanity will one day be able to recognize its own dignity as the divine dwelling place, which it also shares with the rest of creation.