As Christmas preparations begin to hit a fever pitch, could I ask you to consider a gift to our Newman Center in our Christmas Appeal? We conduct these fundraising appeals only twice a year to help our mission of bringing Christ to our students and campus - and your generosity is greatly appreciated. Read more at www.MSUNEWMAN.com. Many thanks for your support and consideration.
I was getting antsy just making these choices but it seemed like it was going okay. Then the lady asked me "Father, when do you want to pick this up? Wednesday night? Because Thursday from 6- 8 in the Morning it’s going to be a mob scene here..." I thought for a second - I didn’t want to get everything the night before and then have it sit till the next day - I mean, again, I’m not a cook, how would I fix it all so that it still tasted fresh from the oven/stove overnight? So I said "well what’s the latest I can come and pick it all up?" She said "well I’m not sure how late the store is open till, but our department will only be here till around noon" - so I said "Okay, how’s 11:00 on Thanksgiving?" She stopped and said "Well, yeah, we can have it ready for you then." Perfect... I thought. Then she asked a strange question "What time are you having everyone for dinner" - I’m not paranoid or anything but was thinking why is she asking that, is she looking for an invite or something? But I let that random thought fly out of my head and just responded "1:30/2:00" She then said "you do know that you have to cook the Turkey..."
In a lot of ways I’m extremely grateful that she pressed me on the details. The fact that I hadn’t really paid close enough attention to something clearly stated right in front of me could’ve resulted in a lot of anxiety, frustration, embarrassment on Thanksgiving. (I’m imagining that I would’ve decided to double the temperature of the oven to cook the bird in record time) If not for this stranger’s care and concern, Thanksgiving dinner could’ve been a bit of a disaster.
In tonight’s Gospel, we hear words of care and concern - not from a stranger, but rather the one who knows us most intimately: Jesus Christ. And he’s offering this very short, somewhat abrupt little parable to help us avoid not some kitchen nightmare but a real, eternal disaster for us individually.
Are we prepared for the day when we meet Jesus Christ face to face? We don’t know if that will be at the end of the world (whose date is a mystery that only God himself knows) or our own "end" (whose date is also a mystery that only God himself knows). But in either case, this Gospel opens up a new year in the Church - a new season in the Church called "Advent." It’s hard with Black-Friday, Cyber Monday and all the other Christmas commercialization for us not to apply that here as well. Advent isn’t meant to be the pre-Christmas season in Church... True, Advent will (the last week of the season) recall the anticipation of the world at the first coming of Christ at the first Christmas. But Advent means a lot more than that. At it’s core, Advent is about welcoming Christ not just back then- but knowing and anticipating his return at the end... and the best way to do that; to be prepared for that is to welcoming him here and now.
That’s why this brief Gospel parable of the master of the house, Jesus gives us the perfect summary of what Advent is about. Waiting.... Watchfulness... Readiness.
But Jesus reminds us that we simply don’t know how much time we have. And the preparations we need to undertake really vary from person to person - because it’s not holiday preparations like gift buying, sending cards or even cooking a Turkey. Things like Love and Compassion... Forgiveness and Healing given to and received from those around us... yeah that’s hard, difficult work, without real time-tables attached to each of those things. Jesus tells us to watch and not be found asleep. It's easy to fall asleep when surrounded by blessings, like a turkey dinner. Life can get so comfortable that we can nod off. But in doing so, we are missing the brunt of what is needed; we need to be aware and ready.
But here’s the thing, Advent isn’t meant to add stress to our already stress filled lives. We’re not to anxiously run through all those things in a mad dash to check them off our list, but rather to reflect, and confront with the preciousness and fragileness of our lives what choices, what values, what beliefs are important enough to LIVE for. Because in the end, life is a constant Advent experience:
the world is not as just,
not as loving,
not as whole as we know it can and should be;
we are constantly waiting to become,
Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of life's Advent. The coming of Christ and his presence among us -- as one of us now -- gives us reason to live in hope:
that light will shatter the darkness,
that we can be liberated from our fears and prejudices,
that we are never alone or abandoned by our merciful Father in heaven.
He walks with us through the advent opportunities He gives to prepare ourselves for His return. What a great day of celebration and feasting that will be!