Today’s readings have a powerful message for us as a Catholic community. Let’s look at the context. It is the first Sunday of Advent Year A. The day itself speaks of a new beginning. Not only is it the first of a new year, but the first of a new three year cycle. Everything is new, as Christ makes all things new.
When we look at the readings they remind us of the second coming of Christ. We as Christians have a vocation to look forward to when Christ comes again. Jesus warns us to be ready.
However, look at St. Paul. He warns us to change our lives. He is not naïve and he sees that there is great sin in the Church. He is calling people to repent of their sin and renew their commitment to Christ. Indeed, if you look at the various litanies of sins that Paul makes in all his letters combined, there are few if any sins that are not mentioned. That means when we listen to those who say Catholics don’t sin. Paul would laugh and say you can find every kind of sin. That is why he calls us to see our own sin and turn from them. That is also way, one should never worry that he has a sin too great for God to forgive. Paul named them all and called for people of faith to repent before it was too late.
Jesus warns us to be ready. That means not only repent of our sins, but as he says not to fall asleep. Now, I am sure many of you have had that feeling when you are tired and behind the wheel of the car. You have a short distance to go. You really cannot stop, because there is no place to do so except for the side of the road, so you do all you can to stay awake.
I remember when I was in Nevada with a priest friend of mine and we were driving back from Zion National Park in Utah. We were almost at Las Vegas and I was tired. The problem is that Vegas is in a Desert and there really isn’t much outside the city limits. So I stayed awake and used all the strategies I normally use. I had the strategy to stay awake.
I thought of that in light of what makes me spiritually sleep and what makes me spiritually awake. I have learned that to be spiritually awake means living to the edge of our Christian faith. When we are most comfortable as Christians, that is when we are most asleep. However, when we are living our faith in challenging ways, that is when we are most awake.
When I live my faith in a way that I have to rely on God to make it through the day. I am awake. I may prefer to be spiritually asleep, but I am awake. This is usually when I have to do something that I don’t want to do, but I know to not do it is to not live my faith.
If we look at that this year we are to hear from the Gospels of Matthew and John, we can look over the gospel and see what Jesus is calling us to do and to be. One of the key elements you will notice is to take risks.
I am reminded of the Hobbit Bilboa Baggins who like most hobbits never wanted trouble in his life. Yet, we are Christians not hobbits and if we are going to live our faith well, we will have trouble in our lives. If we are not going to live our faith well. We will may not have trouble but we will live in a society where the fruits of the Holy Spirit will go away.
It is more difficult to say no to a child when you want to say yes. But if you say no and deal with the repercussions in the long run that child may never thank you but will have a discipline that deal with No that they would not have otherwise. To give a child that discipline is an act of Christian love.
If everyone else is doing it, it may take discipline to say, I won’t do it. But in the long run that choice will pay itself off.
In today’s gospel Jesus talks about two groups those who would be saved and those who would not. Let’s take it out of the individualistic element and make it communal. Imagine each person represented a community. Which community are we, those who would be taken or those who would not. What would be the defining point of our community? Are we asleep at the switch or are we running the train that God has powered. The choice is ours.