Advent and Being Prepared

Today’s the start of this year’s Advent cycle, leading up to another Christmas.

With my culture’s annual focus on flying reindeer, decorated trees, and overflow crowds in Bethlehem, this verse from today’s Gospel reading might sound odd:

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

We know when Jesus came, and where. That happened about two thousand years ago, near the east end of the Mediterranean.

Advent is the season when we look back at our Lord’s first arrival. That’s important.

It’s also when we look ahead, to the day when the Son of man returns. That’s important, too. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 524, 522524, 550)


Last Sunday’s Gospel reading, Luke 23:3543, reminded us of a conversation our Lord had while being crucified.

A few verses later, after a night of torture and humiliation, under a sign that reads “This is the King of the Jews,” the Christ, the Anointed One, the long-awaited Messiah, dies:

“Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’; and when he had said this he breathed his last.”
(Luke 23:46)

You know the rest, from Luke 23:5056: Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body, shrouded it, and laid it in a fresh tomb. Women who came with Jesus from Galilee made sure they know where the tomb was and how to get back to it.

Then they prepared spices and perfumed oils. That was all they had time for before resting on the Sabbath.

This is where it gets interesting.

Meetings, Doubts, and Standing Orders

The women were back at the tomb at daybreak after the Sabbath, with the spices they’d prepared. They couldn’t find our Lord’s body. It wasn’t there.

“While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.

“They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living one among the dead?

“He is not here, but he has been raised. 2 Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee,

“that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.’ ”
(Luke 24:47)

Nobody believed them, of course.

It took a series of meetings and working lunches to convince the surviving 11 that our Lord was really, literally, physically, alive. (Luke 24:3031; Luke 24:4143; John 20:2627)

Some took more convincing than others. I’ve talked about “doubting” Thomas before. (October 28, 2016)

Their last meeting was on a mountaintop, and doubts persisted:

10 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.

11 Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

“Go, therefore, 12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,

“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’ ”
(Matthew 28:1720)

“All that I have commanded you” gets outlined in Matthew 57. It boils down to loving God, and my neighbor; and seeing everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2527, 2937)

Move Out!

Then our Lord left.

“While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.

“They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.’ ”
(Acts 1:1011)

That reminds me of a now-cliche scene from old movies — the commander gives an inspiring speech, makes a dramatic exit, and the sergeant says something like ‘alright! You got your orders: Move out!’

That was two millennia back. Our Lord is still doing whatever’s mentioned1 in John 14:3, and the standing orders haven’t changed.

If Jesus was anybody else, we’d have stopped expecting his return long ago.

But the Word isn’t anybody else.2

Another Year of the Long Watch

Our Lord’s return has been “imminent” for about two millennia now. Jesus said we should “be prepared,” since we wouldn’t know when that will be; and still don’t. (Matthew 24:44; Catechism, 673, 840, 1040, 2772)

There’s more to being prepared than watching and waiting.

Part of our job is spreading the best news humanity’s ever had.

God loves us, and wants to adopt us. All of us. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:35; Peter 1:34; Catechism, 13, 2730, 52, 1825, 1996)

I’ve accepted the offer.

That’s why I try to live as if God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and what our Lord taught; matter. Faith, believing in God, is fine; but pointless unless my actions and words show it. (James 2:1719; Catechism, 18141816)

Being part of the family includes accepting my part of a job that’s not even close to being finished. Thanks to a bad decision we made when humanity began — I’ve talked about that before3 — we’ve been treating each other badly.

That’s given us an impressive backlog of issues: troubled relationships within families and communities, and between nations. (18651869)

Building the Civilization of Love

From Jon Hrubesch, used w/o permission.Building a better world starts within each of us, within me, with an ongoing “inner conversion.” (Catechism, 1888)

Respecting the “transcendent dignity” of humanity and of each person isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. (Catechism, 19281933)

We all have “the same nature and the same origin,” but we’re not identical. We’re not supposed to be. We’re learning — slowly — that generosity, kindness, and sharing, make sense. So does planning for future generations. (Catechism, 19281942, 2415, 24192442)

The job will take time, lots of time, since it involves radical ideas like peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty.

But I think it’s worth the effort. I also think that we have no time to waste.

“…We must overcome our fear of the future. But we will not be able to overcome it completely unless we do so together. The ‘answer’ to that fear is neither coercion nor repression, nor the imposition of one social ‘model’ on the entire world. The answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty….”
(“To the United Nations Organization,”4 Pope St. John Paul II (October 5, 1995))

“God wants you to be in the world, but so different from the world that you will change it. Get cracking.”
(Mother Angelica, EWTN)

More about humanity, love, and the long view:

1 Details of Christ’s Parousia is one of a great many things we know almost nothing about. That’s fine by me. God’s God, I’m not, and I have my hands full, dealing with my own tasks. More about the Parousia and related matters:

2 Our Lord has quite a few titles. The Word is one of them. (John 1:1)

3 The Catholic view of original sin is that this world is basically good, and so are we. The first of us gave our own desires higher priority than God’s. That was a very bad decision, and we’ve been living with its consequences ever since. (Genesis 1:131; Catechism, 386389, 396401)

I’ve talked about this before:

4 The civilization of love, background:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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