This homily is based on Matthew 24:37-44 for the First Sunday of Advent.
For many of us these days, despair is a real temptation. Some of us have actually sworn to keep away from our newsfeed and just get ourselves inebriated in premature Christmas carols. Can the news in the country, in the US, and in the world get any worse? And I don’t know about you, but today’s Gospel, which opens the season of Advent, is no help as far as lifting our spirits is concerned.
What we get from today’s Gospel is–of all things–a warning about the unexpected hour that the Son of Man will come. And guess what will characterize the end time? Divisiveness! The Lord tells us:
“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.”
Doesn’t that already feel familiar? I can’t recall a time when there has been greater divisiveness both here and in the US. If you have the stomach for it, all you need to do is to go online and read all the vicious debates that never intend–and never result in–consensus. All the people posting their views and their readers–not to mention the trolls–seem to just end up even more rabidly committed to their opinion. Not surprising–and quite alarming–when you consider that many experts claim that we live in a “post-truth” world, where appeals to emotions are prioritized over rationality and fidelity to the truth.
So, how are we supposed to enter into the season of Advent with all this polarization and hostility? Isn’t Advent supposed to be the season of hope and waiting? So at prayer this morning, I couldn’t help but say to the Lord: “Surely, there must be a better way to begin your Advent!”
The Lord didn’t show up before me to answer me, but I think he may have shown me an answer. In my prayer I felt assured that the Lord is far from absent and far from dormant. My attention was drawn to the following passage in today’s reading:
“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.”
In other words, in the midst of all the good and the bad that’s going on in our world, the Lord has been busy. He is very much present and very much active in the very midst of all the things that seem to be going wrong in our world. The ark has been built, and its doors are already flung wide open to those like Noah who choose to enter it. There is hope, but we need to look for it and choose to enter into it.
And so it dawned on me: Could it be the case that precisely because we find ourselves on the brink of despair that we now–more than ever–will flail our arms in the hope of snatching some hope? Is it possible that it’s precisely because our people and our hearts are so divided that we will–this time around–actually wait and long for healing? Could it be that it is precisely because we find ourselves drowning in the flood of all the untruths and viciousness, that we will considering entering the ark that the Lord has prepared for us?
Perhaps contrary to my previous thoughts, this is exactly the best way to get into the spirit of Advent. Because now, more than ever, we feel that we are in greatest need of the Lord, so our hearts will truly cry out: “Come, Lord Jesus!”