This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come, the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths." For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!(P) The word of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me, "We will go up to the house of the Lord." And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem. (R)
Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. (R)
According to the decree for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. In it are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David. (R)
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls, prosperity in your buildings. (R)
Because of my relatives and friends I will say, "Peace be within you!" Because of the house of the Lord, our God. I will pray for your good. (R)
Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus said to his disciples: "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. 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. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
A week before Christmas two little brothers happened to stay at their grandmother's house. One night when it was time to go to bed, as usual they both knelt down to say their prayers. While the elder boy was saying his prayers quietly, the younger one was saying his prayers aloud. He prayed, "Dear Lord, I know you are so good and kind to children. Each year during your birthday I receive gifts but I do not like any of them. And raising his voice even louder he said, "Please Lord, this year ask Santa Claus not to bring chocolates and biscuits but bring me a hoverboard. His older brother leaned over and nudged his brother and said, "Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn't deaf." The little brother replied, "I know God is not deaf but our grandma is."
Our God is not deaf. God spoke to the Israelites through the prophets often in various ways. He heard their cries for mercy and delivered them from all their distress and afflictions. And yet they continued to worship other gods and disobey God. Finally, He took on human form in the Person of Jesus and through His ministry, death, and resurrection, redeemed the whole of humankind from sin and death.
God continues to speak to us in many different ways especially through His Word. And He always hears our prayers but unfortunately we do not always heed His warnings and advice. Speaking of human blindness and deafness, the prophet Isaiah (59:1-3) says, "The arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear, but your guilty deeds have made a gulf between you and your God. Your sins have made Him hide His face from you so as not to hear you, since your hands are stained with blood and your finger is guilt, your lips utter lies, your tongues murmur wickedness." In today's gospel we are once again warned to listen to His voice before it may be too late for us.
Today marks the start of a new church year and the first day of the season of Advent. And also from today on we start reading the gospel of Matthew until the Feast of Christ the King next year. The word "Advent" meaning "coming", or "arrival", is derived from the Latin word adventus which is a translation of the Greek word parousia used to refer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the season of Advent is a time to prepare us for both the birth of Christ or the First Coming of Christ over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem and His Second Coming as a powerful king and judge of the living and the dead.
In today's gospel Jesus speaks about His second coming and warns us that most of us won't be ready when He arrives and He compares it to the time of Noah. He said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." Who is the "Son of Man"? Many times, while addressing the crowd, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, Mark (2:10) and John (12:34).
What was it like in the days of Noah? From the Book of Genesis we learn that Noah had lived four thousand years before the time of Jesus, and the people during his time were wicked. All day long their deepest thoughts were nothing but evil. They had become so exceedingly wicked that God even "regretted having made human beings on Earth and was grieved at heart", and He wanted to destroy the people in a flood. But one man, Noah, found favor in God's sight because he was a righteous and blameless man of his generation. God commanded Noah to build a boat which would be a refuge for him, his family and many animals so that they could escape the flood. As Noah was building the boat, God gave people one hundred years more to live until one day following instructions from God, Noah entered the ark with his family and animals of every kind, after which, there was lightening, thunder, violent shaking of the earth and floods. The people fled to the mountains but no one could escape from God's wrath. It was too late. The time of salvation had past. God had shut the door. Hundreds of thousands or millions were killed because of their great wickedness and only eight of the people were saved, 1 Peter (3:20).
However, when Jesus talked about His second coming He did not emphasize people's wicked behavior before the flood. He did not say that they were getting drunk or having wild parties. He only mentioned the normal activities of life. He said, that the people were "eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage". Was it wrong to eat and marry? Of course not, because God had made man and woman, and blessed them with all the good things of life, particularly the power of procreation. But they did those things without recognizing the Lord or listening to Him.
They lived as if they knew nothing about God or there was no God. They walked in the stubbornness of an evil will, until it was too late to escape the flood. Jesus then warned His listeners, "So it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other left." That is to say, Jesus will come to judge people at any time even while they are busy with whatever they are doing in this world. He further compared Himself to a thief in the night and urged people to keep watch because no one knows when He would come.
What is the message for us?
Today, we are once again called upon to live a holy life, be watchful and consciously aware of the sudden and unexpected return of Jesus Christ. But from time to time we are so caught up in the things of this world that we, too, might be a little unprepared for His return. We continue in our pursuit of worldly power, glory and possessions despite the warnings from the Scriptures of the impermanence of our life on Earth. In the midst of these earthly pursuits we often forget about God and His sudden and unexpected return, even when things seem to be going well.
A Christian is someone who is always preparing, always watchful, always ready for the moment when everything stops and we see our Lord Jesus Christ face to face. Hence, while we continue to do all the things we normally do, we shall also invest ourselves in godly activities and values such as kindness, generosity, humility, patience, love, self-control and other such Christlike attitudes and characteristics. And we shall always truly love the Lord our God "with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind", and "love our neighbor as ourselves" so that as Jesus says when we "do this we will live" and we will be found ready to enter into God's presence when He returns in glory, Matthew (22:37-38) and Luke (10:26-28).(P) Amen.
God Bless You!