Stay Awake!

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    Gospel according to Matthew (24:37-44)

    JESUS said to his disciples: “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.

    Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

    ***

    On this First Sunday of Advent, we Christians begin a new liturgical year. We are invited to celebrate in a “progressive movement”: Advent, Nativity (Christmas), and Epiphany. From this Sunday, until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (the last day of Christmas), we will celebrate for six weeks a “strong season” with the same Good News: the coming of the Lord. The three words: ‘Advent’, ‘Nativity’ and ‘Epiphany’—or coming, birth, and manifestation— underline the same message: that Jesus Christ “came” in our history to bring us salvation.

    Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” It has a clear eschatological character in its first part (from its First Sunday to December 16), which leads us to look toward the final coming of the Lord at the end of history. From December 17 until Christmas Day itself, the so-called “holy week” of Christmas, we are led to gaze at the preparation for Christ’s first coming by the people around him (John the Baptist and his family; Joseph and Mary). For these reasons, Advent is the time of prayerful and joyful expectation.

    From its Advent prayers, the Church developed an authentic liturgical spirituality that is centered on the coming of the Lord itself and our waiting for his coming. We can consider here three moments or ways of his coming:

    • the coming of the Lord in the flesh;

    • the coming of the Lord in the end of time;

    • the constant presence or “coming” of the Lord in his Church and in the heart of the faithful who welcome him with love.

    The waiting for Christ is a feeling that is similar to the waiting for a friend. St John Henry Newman said in one of his homilies: “It is necessary to study closely the meaning of the word velar (to keep watch or to stay awake)… We should not only believe, we should stay awake or keep watch; we should not only love, we have to be awake; it is not only necessary to obey, one has to be alert. And why should we keep watch? To welcome this great event: the coming of Christ… Keep watch with Christ… never lose sight of the past while looking towards what is to come and complete what the Lord deserves and do not forget the reason of his suffering.”

    Waiting is one of the characteristics of a Christian. Advent renews this characteristic in us, year after year. We wait because the Lord is “coming.” But how shall we wait? The Gospel says: “Stay awake!” (Mt 24:42). Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans says: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the; armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day… But put on the Lord Jesus Christ…” Stay awake! The Lord is coming—in your heart, in our community in the Church, in the world! But only those who are “awake” will “see” and experience the “salvation” brought by his “coming.
    — Sr. Maria Cecilia Payawal, PDDM