Matthew 24:37-44
Prepare for Final Advent
by Rev. Joseph M. Rampino
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

The coming of the Son of Man will repeat what happened in Norah's time.  In the days before the flood people were eating and drinking, marrying and being married, right up to the day Jonah entered the ark.  They were totally unconcerned until the flood came and destroyed them.  So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding meal; one will be taken and one will be left.  Stay awake, therefore!  You cannot know the day your Lord is coming.  "Be sure of this: if the owner of the house knew when the thief was coming he would keep a watchful eye and not allow his house to be broken into.  You must be prepared in the same way.  The Son of Man is coming at the time you leas expect.

Each year, as Thanksgiving passes and the season of Advent begins for us in the church, our thoughts almost immediately turn to the next great holiday in the horizon: Christmas.

Santa, having already made his obligatory Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade appearance, now show up in stores, advertisements and home decorations everywhere.  Christmas music, new and old, begins to sound in public and on the radio, and snowflakes decorate even our take-out coffee cups.  People begin, renew, and revisit relationships, buy and sell gifts, plan dinners, prepare for post-Christmas vacations, and the whole country, if not the whole world seems filled with constant, sometimes harried, activity.

Christ Jesus in the Gospel today paints for us picture of similar activity, but in a very different context.  He speaks of people "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," people working "out in the field," "grinding at the mill," going about the daily rounds of human activity.  Yet, Christ compares this to the days immediately before the great flood in the days of Noah, and tells us that just such a thing will precede the end, and Christ's own final Advent, bringing a close to all of time.  This certainly presents us a jarring contrast.  Just as the men and women of old were not prepared, and the flood caught them off guard, so he says the last generation will not be waiting, ready for the final day.  What a sentiment for the beginning of Advent.

Yet, when we consider what the Lord is telling us, we find that it comes from the depth of his love and mercy toward us.  Christ is not commanding us to go about as prophets of doom.  He is not commanding us to comb through mystical sayings and revelations to figure out exactly what must be done in order to avoid or mitigate that awful end time.  In fact, we may well note that St. Paul himself commanded us only a few weeks ago to ignore all such reports that the end is imminent, even if they should come from his own hand.

Rather, the Lord commands us not to lose ourselves in all the activity of the world around us, and so be unprepared when he comes to take us to himself.  Those he gathers home in the Gospel today, he finds at their work, like everyone else: One is out in the field, another is grinding at the mill.  The difference is that their hearts are directed toward God even while they work.  They are watching for the Lord with the eyes of their souls, even while they do what each day demands.

So it must also be for us.  The end will surely come one day, yes, though we cannot say for sure when that will be.  In the meantime, in the midst of a world filled with activity, in the midst of an Advent filled with commercial and secular distractions, we must keep our hearts awake and watchful.  We must take time each day for prayer and reflection, attend to the needs of our neighbors, keep vigilance over our souls through repentance, confession and good works.  We do not have to reject all the activity of our time or of the season, but we cannot lose ourselves in these things.  If we do this, not only will we be well-prepared for the Advent of Jesus at Christmas, with space for the Christ child in our homes, but for his final Advent, when he sets all things right, and gathers his friends with him into the eternal kingdom of his Father.