Watch and prepare, but don’t stop living

| Deacon Ben Wittnebel | November 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

Advent is a season of preparation for Christ’s threefold coming: in history (at Christmas), into our hearts (through repentance, conversion, saving faith and the sacraments) and at the end of time (his second coming).

The Gospel for Nov. 27 teaches us about this third coming and how we are to respond. His second coming will be sudden, like in the days of Noah, and at an hour we do not expect, like a thief in the night. We do not know on which day Christ will come. So, what are we to do? We shouldn’t guess which day or in which year it will be, but to watch. Jesus commands us, “Stay awake!” What does that look like? The Lord gives us some insight here and develops it more fully in the rest of his discourse (Mt 24-25).

Just as those during the time of Noah were doing ordinary, natural activities (eating, drinking, working), so, too, those at the time of the coming of Christ will be doing ordinary activities (they will be out in the field and grinding at the mill). Yet, something is different in the Gospel. Though both men and women are doing the same external activities, “one will be taken, and one will be left.”

Why?

From the context, it seems because one has watched and prepared for the Lord, but the other has not. Quite profoundly, Jesus teaches us here that watching and preparing for his second coming are not incompatible with accomplishing ordinary activities, such as those of our state in life — work, for instance. St. Paul picks this up to exhort some Thessalonians who were not working because they thought the second coming was imminent: “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing” (2 Thes 3:12-13). Thus, we can accomplish ordinary activities of daily life as Christians animated by the supernatural love of God, all the while preparing for Christ’s second coming.

The Lord gives an analogy to spur us to lifelong vigilance: If the master of a house would stay awake to protect natural goods (his property) from a thief, how much more are Christ’s disciples to stay awake and be ready for his second coming (a far greater good than property)?

In commanding us to watch and be prepared at all times, Jesus is essentially saying, “There is never a time for living a merely natural life with no reference to God, nor is there ever a time when we set aside the joy and peace of the Christian life for the sadness of sin.”

Finally, “watching” is not an act of will-power alone. The Lord would not command watching and being prepared if he did not also provide the grace to do so. We watch, moved and aided by God’s grace.

Deacon Wittnebel is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His teaching parish is Holy Spirit in St. Paul, and his home parish is St. Joseph in West St. Paul.

Sunday, Nov. 27
First Sunday of Advent

Readings

  • Is 2:1-5
  • Rom 13:11-14
  • Mt 24:37-44

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Category: Sunday Scriptures