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Bible Reflections View Comments

Advent Is too Important to Miss
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 1, 2013
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“The night is advanced; the day is at hand”—a paradoxical thought at the beginning of Advent, coming as it does in the winter of the year when the days are ever shorter, the nights longer, darker, colder. This very discrepancy jolts us into awareness. It is easy to be wrapped up in our own comfort at this time of year. In our attempts to escape the threat of snow and the starkness of black tree branches against cold skies, we build fires in the fireplace or turn up the furnace. We have festive meals. We shop and decorate and bake for Christmas celebrations.

But Advent calls us to an awareness of something beyond the comfort and cheer of Christmas traditions, calls us into the winter of the year to see the beauty of waiting—darkness waiting for light, emptiness waiting for fullness, cold waiting for warmth, hearts waiting for love.

Our Gospel today warns us not to be lulled to sleep by daily routines and the flurry of holiday activity. Jesus condemns the people of Noah’s time not for their activities, but for their indifference to the realities of life in their midst. Too often we like to pretend there’s nothing beyond the next festivity.

Advent is a time to prepare ourselves not for a whirl of Christmas parties but for the Lord, who is continually breaking into our lives.

We might shake our heads at the obvious truth in Jesus’s statement: “If the owner knew when the thief was coming, he would not let him break into the house.” In these days of elaborate security alarms and neighborhood watch programs, we seem to have decided that the best response is to be always vigilant against threats known and unknown. But have we prepared as well for the coming of the Lord into our lives? How aware are we of the Lord trying to break open our hearts?

Advent calls us to transform our lives because of God’s promise to dwell in our midst. As the liturgical seasons and scriptures cycle around each year, we might begin by asking, “Where was I when this was proclaimed last, and where will I be when it’s proclaimed this year? How has my life changed?”

Advent comes into the darkness of our everyday lives with a promise of love and light, a challenge of conversion, a sense of discovery. Advent is a time to rediscover our faith, to explore who we are and whom we follow. The prophets call us to believe in God’s promise—to take risks, to make difficult choices, to give of ourselves.

Christmas celebrates the first risk Jesus took: being born into our world. Every day we’re called to take the risk of living in that world and transforming it through our belief in God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. Grounded in our faith, we discover that taking risks can awaken within us a sense of promise and anticipation, not dread and fear and remorse.

Once when I was a child, the northern lights were making a particularly dazzling display in the skies over our house. My parents tried to wake me for it but said I just wouldn’t wake up enough to go outside. I’ve always regretted missing that experience. Paul tells the Romans: “You know the time; it is the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” And Jesus tells his disciples, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” They’re not saying this to frighten us, but to make sure we don’t miss the wonder that is Emmanuel.



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Matthew: Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. The Romans were not scrupulous about what the "tax farmers" got for themselves. Hence the latter, known as "publicans," were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners" (see Matthew 9:11-13). So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of his intimate followers. 
<p>Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going-away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus' answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Matthew 9:12b-13). Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that loving others is even more important. </p><p>No other particular incidents about Matthew are found in the New Testament.</p> American Catholic Blog The most appealing invitation to embrace the religious life is the witness of our own lives, the spirit in which we react to our divine calling, the completeness of our dedication, the generosity and cheerfulness of our service to God, the love we have for one another, the apostolic zeal with which we witness to Christ’s love for the poorest of the poor.

 
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