Saturday, 8 December 2007

The First Week of Advent (3)

Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5 Romans 13:11-14 Matthew 24:37-44

My day of judgement
In fact, this coming is not just at the moment of Final Judgement. Or, let us put it another way. The Final Judgement is not so much a day when all will be gathered together but rather it is that moment when each one of us is called to come face to face with God. When Jesus speaks of two men in the fields where one is taken and the other left or two women at the same millstone grinding where one is taken and one is left, it is difficult not to think of the horrific event in New York on Sept 11, 2001. That is exactly what happened here. While thousands were caught in the collapse of the two towers, many others escaped, some of them almost miraculously. It was an experience that made many people - including those who were nowhere near the towers - reflect. Why them and not me? It also made them reflect on the deeper meaning of their life and its ultimate goal.

Staying alert
"So stay awake," Jesus tells us today, "because you do not know the day when your Master is coming." That applies just as much to the victims of Sept 11 and all such disasters as it does to the individual who gets a sudden heart attack or is involved in a fatal car accident or the child who drowns in a swimming pool. There is absolutely no one to whom this warning does not apply.

Night and day
Similar warnings are given by Paul in the Second Reading, which is from his Letter to the Romans. He calls on the Christians to 'wake up' because the day salvation is closer than they realise. "The night is almost over, it will be daylight soon - let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light." All of us can identify with this warning. Many of us have skeletons in our closets, things we would probably be ashamed to let others know of our past, or even our present, life. It is time now to come fully out into the light, to be people of utter transparency with nothing to hide either from God or man. Obviously, too, he says it is time to put an end to any grossly immoral behaviour (drunken orgies, promiscuity, licentiousness, wrangling, jealousy).

Day by day
It seems then that the best way to honour the first coming of the Lord and to prepare for his final coming is to live our lives in a coming of the Lord that happens every day and at every moment of our lives. We do not prepare for the future coming either by leaving things to the last minute and getting caught out nor by living in fear and anxiety of a judging God.

Moment by moment
By far the best way is to live our daily lives constantly in the presence of the Lord who touches our lives at every moment. One writer called this the "sacrament of the present moment". Every moment of our lives, every experience, every person, every action and every word is a sacrament of God's presence. He can be found there and responded to. When we live our lives constantly surrendering to his presence and seeing his hand in everything that happens to us, we will not be afraid when the final call comes. We will not be caught unawares. Perhaps there were some people like that in World Trade Center that day. Perhaps they had already begun their day with prayer or had already celebrated Mass on their way to work. Even in those last terrible moments when they saw the inevitable, they united themselves to their Lord and went to meet him. We will never know."

No need for fear
In any case, all of us have had plenty of warning but this is not meant to instil us with fear. On the contrary, it is to encourage us to live constantly in the loving presence of a God who is closer to us than breathing.

No comments: