We have entered the beautiful season of Advent. The Church gives us this holy time to focus on being ready to meet the Lord. This particular emphasis of the Church arises from the insistence of the Lord Jesus himself. As we heard in the Gospel passage on Sunday (Matthew 24: 37-44), Jesus makes clear that he will come again, though we know not when. Indeed, we proclaim in the Creed our expectation of the Lord’s return, when he will come as judge of the living and the dead.
This begs the question: how do we get ready? Since we know neither the day nor the hour of the Lord’s return, we need to be in a perpetual state of readiness. How do we prepare ourselves? Sacred Scripture itself gives the answer. In the readings proclaimed at mass for Sunday, we are given three indispensable aspects of our readiness.
1. Stay attentive to the meaning of life. In his teaching Jesus speaks of individuals so focused on their regular daily routines that they are caught off guard by God’s sudden intervention. Today, busy-ness is a big problem. We can all have a full schedule of appointments on a daily basis. The danger here is that we can become so fixated on our routine busy-ness that we forget both the meaning of life and the most important appointment of our lives: meeting the Lord when he comes.
2. Give the worship of God first place. Isaiah offers a vision of all nations moving toward Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 2:1-5). This is the city of the Temple, God’s dwelling. In other words, it is the place of worship. When we place the worship of Almighty God before and above all other considerations, life becomes properly ordered. So, we might ask ourselves: what is my Sunday morning like? Is there something to which I give a higher priority than Sunday mass? The imperative of readiness demands that I not allow the worship of God to be supplanted by pursuits that are comparatively of very little importance or significance.
3. Give up all that is sinful. St. Paul encourages us to “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12). Readiness requires a regular examination of conscience. How are my patterns of thought and behaviour inconsistent with the teaching of the Lord’s Church? Here it would be important to ask ourselves: when was the last time I went to confession? When we know a special guest is coming, we naturally want to put our homes in order in preparation for the arrival. Well, there can be no more important guest than our Lord, especially when his arrival will be a moment of judgement. A regular practice of self-examination and confession is the way we receive the grace we need to sweep clean the home of our soul.
Let’s be alert and ready. The Lord’s own words are not to be dismissed: “Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”