Keep Watch! Be Ready!

Gospel Reflection for the 1st Sunday of ADVENT Year-A

Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14
Psalm: Psalm 121:1-2, 4-5, 6-9
Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

A woman from Epping North (Victoria, Australia) who was interviewed by ABC Radio regarding the recent bushfire in her area said on the day fire authorities issued the advisory urging people to evacuate she was actually preparing to go to the city to watch a concert.During her radio interview, she kept repeating the same things: “We were not ready!” “Be aware!” “Just be ready!”

On this first Sunday of Advent, we are being invited to do the same–be alert and keep watch–as we await the coming of our God at Christmas. However, today’s readings–and especially the gospel–focus not on Christmas. Rather, it is reminding all of us about the coming of Jesus and of the Kingdom of God into the midst of our lives.In particular, the gospel also seems to have a familiar ring in our lives today, especially if we compare it with what the woman from Epping North was saying in that radio interview. We can even imagine the people in Noah’s time saying the same things when the flood came rushing to them: “We were not ready!”

Indeed, often times we are surprised at the sudden turn of events. But we must ask why?  Jesus in the gospel emphasized the unknown nature of the future when he predicted the end of times.And yet, we are not left totally ignorant about the future. Because God revealed to us in the person of Jesus that the fullness of our humanity and of history is with him. Our future lies with him in glory.
Unfortunately, like the people in Noah’s time, we often do not pay attention. We are usually too preoccupied on immediate concerns. We live in a culture that is too focused on the present. Therefore, events sometimes overtake us.When this happens, we usually are not in control; we feel helpless, and sometimes hopeless–like the woman in the radio exclaiming: We were not ready!
However, the Lord’s message in the gospel is simple: Prepare for the unexpected through faith. Trust in the Lord daily.
We need to have the attitude and the action of waiting in hope and in anticipation. By this we mean looking forward into the future and visualizing what it will be like.These require us to be persistent, vigilant and willing to postpone today’s pleasures so that we will be open and ready to receive Christ, our God-who-dwells-among-us, not only this coming Christmas but everyday in our lives.
Furthermore, we need, as Pope Francis tells us, to have a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in our homes, in our streets and squares. We have to teach ourselves to be able to see God in the persons of our relatives, friends, neighbors and even strangers in order to find encouragement and meaning in our lives.
For this reason, it is even more important that during, and especially, this Advent season, we come and participate more often in the Eucharist; to be in communion with one another.Because it is from the Eucharist we get our strength to carry on our duty as Christians. Again, Pope Francis says the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”Salvation did not come to us as individuals but as a people; as a community; because God saved not an individual but a people. We need each other to achieve our goal; we need each other to keep us alert and be ready.
So as we reflect upon the gospel message this Sunday, let us sincerely ask ourselves, “In what ways are we alert to life?” “What keeps us living in the darkness and prevent us from seeing God’s action in our lives?”Let us also ask ourselves, “What would happen if Christ arrives in a way unexpected?” Can we say: “We are ready?”
 Advent is a time of preparation; of waiting in hope and anticipation. The Church reminds us that whether Jesus comes in glory or as a poor child, the results are the same. Christmas and the Second Coming invite us to come closer to God. Both urge us to approach the Lord without delay even though events of the world distract us.