Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44
On a mountain of Northern Vietnam, there is a rock that appears like the image of woman bearing a child in her arms looking toward the horizon like waiting for someone. This image is especially striking at sunset and sunrise, bringing about indescribable emotionsto all who have ever looked up to that mountain and admired the waiting woman.
This rock became a source of inspiration for several legends in Vietnam about women waiting for husbands.
A Long time ago, in a small village, there was a young couple who had been living happily together. The young wife had just given birth to a child when a large army invaded their land. The King then called for all young men to join the military to fight the invaders. The young husband, complied with the order of the King, went to the frontier. The young wife waited for her husband to return. Months and years passed but her husband never came back. She decided to climb up to the top of a mountain to watch for her husband. There she stood, the small child in her arms, looking toward the frontier, expecting her husband to return. She stood there days after days and nights after nights. Rivers and mountains near and far heard of her story and pitied her. They wanted to counsel her to return home so they went in flock to visit her, forming a long mountain range that now runs throughout Vietnam (the Trường Sơn mountain range). As years passed by time set her body into stone. But her soul lived on and there she stood waiting forever.
History of salvation is a story of promises and the long and continuous waiting for the fulfilment of the promises.
When Adam and Eve defected the Paradise God promised a mediator. He promise to save Noah and his family from the flood (Gen 6:18). He promised to Abraham that He would make Abram into a great nation. (Gen 12:2). He promised to Israelites that He would deliver them from the bondage in Egypt. He promised the wandering Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey. Once they were settled, He promised them a King, and a temple to worship Him. He promised to David that his kingdom would be established for ever. The promises continued through the prophets. He promised through the prophet Jeremiah a New Covenant. (Jer 31:31-34), and the great promise of a saviour came from Prophet Isaiah. “This young woman will give birth to a son. She will name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14).
The year of the liturgical calendar starts with the season of Advent. The season of Advent is a season of expectant waiting. The Latin word “adventus” means “coming”. So in the season of Advent we are waiting for the coming of some one. The coming of the saviour.
All the three readings of today describe the manner how our waiting should be! The waiting of a Christian is not a passive waiting devoid of any creative activity. It is not a waiting in laziness. But this waiting is an invitation to walk in the ways of the Lord – the way of justice, the way of charity, the way of forgiveness, the way of simplicity and the way of altruism.
In the first reading we hear the invitation of Prophet Isaiah:
“Come let us go to the mountain of the Lord,
To the temple of the God of Jacob
That he may teach us his ways
So that we may walk in his paths.
O House of Jacob, come,
Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
So, Advent is a time of invitation to walk in the light.
For St. Paul night time is the symbol of nefarious activities, and day time stands for the time when we do good. St Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome:
“Let us live decently as people do in the daytime;
No drunken orgies,
No promiscuity or licentiousness
And no wrangling or jealousy.”
Secondly, Advent is a time of invitation to be engaged in action. In the mind of Paul the whole life of a Christian is waiting to meet Jesus. It is not a call to be passive and do nothing. But it is a call to be actively engaged in the daily affairs of life. To be instruments in the hands of God. God worked among His people through the medium of chosen people. Moses was chosen to be an instrument to lead the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt to freedom. Ehud was sent to protect them from the Moabites (Judges 315). Samson was an instrument at the hands of God to deliver His people from the oppression of the Philistines. Nehemiah was sent to rebuild the temple. Today we are the instruments at the hands of God. So, Advent is an invitation to constantly strive to achieve our goal. As Robert William Service puts it, “Striving is strength: with all that's in me I will not falter in the fray.”
Do not allow passivity to creeps into our lives and falter in the fray. .An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” says the proverb.
John F. Kennedy is said to be very fond of a particular story. During his 1960 presidential campaign he often used it to close his speeches. It is the story of Colonel Davenport, Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives back in 1789. One day, while the House was in session, the sky of Hartford suddenly grew dark and gloomy. Some of the representatives looked out and thought that was a sign that the end of the world had come. Uproar ensued with the representatives calling for immediate adjournment. But Davenport rose and said, “Gentlemen, the Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought.” Candles were brought and the session continued.
Thirdly, Advent is an invitation to be vigilant. In today’s Gospel passage Jesus insists on watchfulness.
“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.”
The Lord’s coming will be a surprise for many, as the “thief in the night.” But for those who heed the warnings of Scripture, the “Day” will not overtake them as a thief, because they will be ready for His coming, though we don’t know when it will be.
In the season of Advent the Church wants us to go through life, watchful, active and joyful.