“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).

This verse is part of a larger passage (Matthew 24:1 — 25:30) where Jesus speaks about the time before his second coming—that is the time in which we all live. Of course this is immediately followed with the separation of the sheep and goats—the final judgment of the nations when Jesus returns.

Many different examples and parables are used by Jesus to drive the point home for us that the time we have is not unlimited, that it will run out when we least expect it to, and that to be found unprepared for that end is tragic. One comparison that particularly fits our age is the reference to Noah and The Flood.

“For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In [those] days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be [also] at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37-39).

We begin the season of Advent today. It is the liturgical season during which we await and anticipate the coming of the Christ. There are two Advents of the Lord Jesus. The first is the time when fallen mankind awaited the coming of God in his Incarnation. The second is the time during which redeemed mankind awaits the return of Jesus at the end of the world.

Jesus makes a reference to what it was like during the days of Noah when people were consumed by the busyness of their daily lives and neglected their duties to God. They had no awareness that their time was up. This happened during the first advent. Jesus tells us that it will also be the same during the second advent. Our time will be up when we least expect it to be over. For most people, it is not the Flood or the Second Coming that will signal the end, rather, it will be the end of their earthly lives at death—again, all to often when we least expect it to come.

Helpful Ideas for Staying Awake This Advent and Beyond

Be aware—That is what Jesus says to us in this passage. Knowledge is crucial. If we are not aware of the need to remain watchful, we won’t be. One reason for the liturgical season of Advent is to remind us… to make us aware again! This life on earth is short and the life to come is eternal. Don’t sacrifice eternity for today.

Go deeper—Make a point of praying each day of Advent, meditating on scripture passages that will deepen our understanding of Salvation History and the two Advents of Christ. The devotional practice of the Jesse Tree is an excellent tool to accomplish this.  It does not take much time and the whole family can participate. The Women for Faith and Family website has an excellent resource for this devotion.

Make a Daily Examen—We should all examine our conscience on a regular basis; especially during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent.

Start with these questions:

  • “Is my spiritual life more advanced as I begin this Advent season than it was when I began the preceding Advent?
  • Is my life of prayer deeper and more fruitful this year?
  • Do I demonstrate my love of God by how I serve those around me? What have I done for the least of His brothers and sisters?
  • Do I demonstrate my love of God by my obedience to him?”

If you are not in the practice of making a regular examen, this article from last Lent can help you get started.

Abide in Christ—Living the sacramental life is essential. Remain in a state of Sanctifying Grace; our participation in the Divine Life. Regular Confession and the worthy reception of Holy Communion is the key to abiding in Christ. In this state of grace, we are able and disposed to perform those good works God has prepared for us. Make an effort this Advent to assist at daily Mass.

Be Conformed to Christ’s Image—Is a humble surrender to God, seeking to be conformed to his image and praying that his will be done part of your daily prayer life and the foundation on how you see  and serve others? This last point really is a summation of the previous points.

There is nothing more important that we can do. So we should not claim that we have no time to do this. Jesus warns us in the above Gospel passage that this is what time is for and time is limited.

Into the deep…

Editor’s Note: Mass readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A) — Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44.

Into the Deep by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™ and usually appears on Sundays.

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