Sunday Scriptures

Staying Ready For the Inevitable

by Msgr. Joseph P. Calise

One of the most popular games we played as children was hide-and-seek. The basic premise was simple: whoever was “it” had to cover his eyes and count while everyone else hid. His mission was to find everyone before they could return to home base and be safe. The warning signal to those in hiding was his post-counting battle cry, “Ready or not, here I come.”

Even though the Thanksgiving dishes are barely dry, this first day of December reminds us that Christmas is only 24 days away. By now, I wish my Christmas cards were ready to mail, my lists complete, shopping done and New Year’s resolutions decided. Yet, no matter how I try to organize, it seems as though there is always something that is put off until the last minute.

The readings for this First Sunday of Advent not only remind us of the nearness of our celebration of Christ’s birth as a man, but also of His promise to return — not as a baby in Bethlehem, but in glory “to judge the living and the dead” as we pray in the Creed.

In the second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he writes with an urgency that “it is now the hour to wake from sleep.” St. Paul may have been operating under the mistaken but understandable presumption that Christ’s second coming would be immediate.

Nonetheless, being prepared early and having to wait is wiser than being found unprepared. Being caught unprepared can be a difficult experience. Ranging from pop quizzes in school to unexpected news from a doctor to the attack on Pearl Harbor, being unprepared is usually not a good thing.

In the Gospel, Matthew refers to the flood in Noah’s time and brings us to an understanding of the challenge of this week’s Scriptures. No one except Noah expected the flood to actually happen, and so he was the only one who prepared for it.

The others went about “eating and drinking and marrying” — that is, they continued in their normal, everyday practices. They are not described as carousing and cursing and worshipping idols. They are simply going about their day-to-day activities as if nothing out of the ordinary was going to happen, even though the Book of Genesis tells us that Noah warned them. They heard it was coming, paid no attention to the warning and were found unprepared.

Although the calendar today reminds us of the nearness of Christmas, I daresay that I will not be the only one lamenting on Christmas Eve the things left undone on my Advent “to do” list. I hope that we will all be well prepared for the second coming — therein lies Matthew’s challenge in the Gospel.

We read, “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.” 

We hear a description of people in the course of their normal day-to-day activities.  Seemingly they are the same but only one is taken by the Son of Man. Whatever the distinction is between the one taken and the one left is not distinguishable to the eye; it has to be something God sees that we cannot.

Matthew challenges us to “stay awake” and be prepared for the Lord’s coming as if we were homeowners knowing a thief was on his way. It is a call to awareness — not a morbid fear, but an expectant readiness that inspires us to live from day to day in a way that we would confidently welcome the Lord.

I have to try harder this season to be prepared for Christmas, but more urgently, I need to be ready to meet Him at His return, because I know — whether I am ready or not — that day will come.


Readings for the First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 2: 1-5

Psalm 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Romans: 13: 11-14

Matthew 24: 37-44


Msgr. Calise is the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration Parish, Maspeth.

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