Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.
‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’
Fr Murtagh’s Commentary
At Mass we prepare ourselves to meet Christ in word and sacrament by asking forgiveness and by acknowledging our sins. Likewise we prepare to meet Christ at Christmas, to celebrate Christ’s coming into the world at Christmas by sweeping our hearts clean of sin. The themes of Advent and of the readings are preparation by prayer, watching and waiting in faith, and practising personal integrity in lifestyle and behaviour. The last days of the church year and of the calendar year are an opportunity to reflect too on the four last things; death, judgement, heaven and hell. Christ will come again, at an hour we do not expect, to liberate us from the slavery of death, and from the limitations of this world. St Paul counsels us to confirm our hearts in holiness so that we may be blameless before God and the saints – to make progress in the kind of life God wants – the kind we are supposed to be living – to remember the instruction given by Jesus and passed down through the apostles and through the church. St Luke encourages us, ‘do not allow your hearts to be coarsened by sinfulness, pray for the strength to survive and the confidence to stand before the son of man’. The world lives as if Christ was not to come again in judgement. We are to live so that it does not matter when Christ comes, because our whole lives are a preparation. We are to read the signs and always to be prepared, full of faith and generous in trust. God is faithful, God fulfils his promise and God reaches out to us with generosity of love and forgiveness. As we prepare to meet Christ in word and sacrament, in the celebration of his birth, and in the finality of death and judgement, may our every thought word and deed, our very lives, be lived in preparation for meeting him, that we may be thought worthy of the promises of Christ.