Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of a new liturgical year for the Church. The Advent season includes the four Sundays that precede Christmas. It is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. In this season, we recall two central elements of our faith: the final coming of the Lord in glory and the incarnation of the Lord in the birth of Jesus. Key themes of the Advent season are watching, preparation and justice.
In this new liturgical year, the Gospel of Matthew will be the primary Gospel proclaimed (Lectionary Cycle A). In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus speak about the need for wakefulness, for watchful waiting, for the coming of the Son of Man.
Matthew’s Gospel is dated by most scholars after 70 A.D. Most believe that Matthew wrote for a primarily Jewish community, but one that was no longer centered on the temple in Jerusalem. These were Jewish Christians trying to come to terms with their relationship to Judaism in a new situation: Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. There may have been Christians who believed that the events of the world around them gave evidence of the imminent return of the Lord in glory.
The passage from Matthew we read today is rather straightforward. No one knows the precise time of the coming of the Lord in glory, so watchful waiting and vigilance are required. The passage speaks to the uselessness of looking for signs; there will be none. As a thief sneaks in during the night, so will the Lord’s coming in glory be.
The question for us as members of the Christian community, then, is how do we prepare for this? Today’s passage speaks more about the manner of waiting, rather than the details of the preparation. Jesus compares the vigilance required of Christians to the vigilance of a homeowner who know the plans of the thief. If one knows that the thief’s action in imminent one remains watchful. As Christians we know that our Lord is coming even if we cannot know the precise timing. Jesus calls us to be watchful and vigilant, like the homeowner. If we become lax in our Christian living, we may be caught unprepared.
Many of us feel the pressure early in the holiday season to be ready for Christmas. But today’s Gospel challenges us to be ready for something other than the gift-giving Christmas.
Read together today’s Gospel reading. As a family talk about what it means to be ready for the day of the Lord. One of the roles of the family, the domestic Church, is to be a school of faith leading one another to salvation. Reflect together as a family on how your family helps one another to be better Christians. Commit to one thing that your family will do this Advent season to help one another be better Christians. You might choose to write this commitment down and post it in a prominent place in your home, perhaps near your family’s Advent wreath.
Pray together that God will help you in this Advent commitment. Pray together the Lord’s Prayer or today’s Psalm.