First Sunday of Advent
by Fr. Jack McArdle
GOSPEL: Matthew 24:37-44.
If what happened that first Christmas night were to literally happen again, year after year, there still would be people who would find some reason for putting off getting ready to meet him until next year. Jesus never comes at the right time! Some things never change! Just as, on that first Christmas morning, when the Messiah came, there were many hearts and homes closed against him, so will it continue to be per omnia secula seculorum(forever and ever). And one of those times will be his Final Coming; time will be no more; and the last train will have left the station. All diets start on Monday! Today is the day you were always going to do all those things you kept putting off till to-morrow! There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come!
John finally made it to the movies! There was a movie made about him, and it was called "I'll quit tomorrow". He was a bad alcoholic, and he spent his life convincing himself, and everyone else, that he was going to quit tomorrow. The opening scene of the movie is quite dramatic. The coffin is being lowered into the grave, while his wife and four young children are huddled together, by the graveside. For John, tomorrow had come, and, yes, he had quit drinking.............
Some things never change, but one thing has changed. Bethlehem is no longer outside Jerusalem! It is in your heart, and it is there that the manger must be prepared for this Christmas. Because of our brokenness, and the human condition, we have nothing better to offer, nor does God choose to be born anywhere else than where Salvation is most needed.
At the time of Creation God offered a covenant of infinite, endless Love. When we rejected that, he sent his Son Jesus to offer us a Covenant of Infinite, endless Mercy and Forgiveness. If we reject that, he will send Jesus, once again, to proclaim a time of infinite and final Justice. God doesn't send me anywhere when I die. He eternalises the choices and the decisions that I make now. It certainly won't be God's fault if I am not infinitely happy for all eternity.
We all know people who live with a worldly mind-set. They are continually checking the latest news from the Stock Exchange, the trends in world marketing, or the changes in international currency. For us, lesser fish, we watch out for sales, for bargains, for special deals. We arrive at the surgery with our latest symptoms, and we call the emergency services at the slightest hint of danger. As a rule, we are normal, sensible people, who don't take chances, and we live with a fair degree of enlightened common-sense. WHAT JESUS IS TALKING ABOUT IN TODAY'S GOSPEL IS SOMETHING VERY VERY SERIOUS............
It is vital for us to appreciate the wonderful gift of TIME. God is totally a God of NOW("I AM WHO AM"). The only YES in my whole life in which he is interested is my YES of NOW. Today is a very unique and special gift, and not everyone received that gift. Because it is a gift, could that be why we call it 'the present'?! Written on the gift are the words 'batteries included'. With each day comes the daily bread for living that day.
Did you ever reflect on the possibility that you might be walking around half-asleep?! The Advent liturgies call on us to "Arise from your slumber". Quite alot of me could be dormant, and, if I died this moment, and God asked me "Did you enjoy my creation?", would I have to admit that I never really took much notice of it. Oh, I travelled to other countries to admire the scenery, but I may not have bothered too much about my own back garden. This very day is entirely unique. It has never happened before, and it will never return. The same is true of this Christmas. I can approach this Christmas as if it were the only such once-off occasion in my whole life, and that would make all the difference.
Mary said YES at the Annunciation, and so Christmas followed. Christmas is God saying YES to us, as he comes to rescue us, to set us free from our own bondage, and to bring us safely home for all eternity. My own personal YES could be the only piece of the formula of salvation still not in place.....
Take at least one minute out today, go down into your heart, open the door, and say your own personal YES to Jesus for this Christmas. You don't have to understand it,....just do it!
As the holly, the decorations, the jingle bells, and all the down-town razzmatazz builds up, just continue to keep in touch with your heart, where you want the manger to be. As you buy Christmas gifts, or convey good wishes this Christmas, just make sure that all of that is coming from your heart, so that your gift is really a gift, and your good wishes are really a blessing.
Let your heart continually pray the simple one-word prayer of YES. Do this, and leave the rest to God. This will be your most blessed, and your most sincere Christmas ; it could be the beginning of the alertness that Jesus asks for in today's Gospel. When he comes will he find you ready.........? The road to hell is paved with good intentions. When all is said and done, there's much more said than done.....
There is a famous and beautiful picture of Jesus knocking on a door. When this picture was first shown to the public, the artist's attention was drawn to a serious flaw. There was no handle on the door! The artist explained that this was very deliberate, because it represented the reality. The door is the door of the human heart, and there is no handle on the outside. Jesus cannot enter unless I open the door and invite him in. "I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens the door, I will come in and we will share a meal as friends." If I open the door and let Jesus in, then I can be sure that, later on, I will hear another knock. If I ask 'What is it now?', he will answer 'I want back out again'! Back out again through my words and actions, etc.
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And That's The Gospel Truth copyright © Fr. Jack McArdle. All rights reserved.