SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Knowing and not knowing versus real living
First Reading: (Is 63:16-17;
64:1,3-8): The Israelites prayed and repented
Second Reading: (1 Cor 1:3-9): God will strengthen His Disciples
Gospel: (Mk: 3:33-37): Be on the watch and keep awake
Chinese Classics: “Do the dead have consciousness or do they not? (2)
“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know
when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he
leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands
the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake - for you do
not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or
at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep
when he comes suddenly.” (Mk 13:33-36)
We must be preparing for Jesus' Second Coming at all times. He will
come to judge and take account of each person's good and evil deeds.
The advice Jesus gave to His disciples is the same advice he gives to
all people: “And what I say to you I say
to all: Keep awake.” (Mk 13:37)
We don't know the day when Jesus will come again or the exact time for
the end of the world. But each of us must be on the watch, be alert,
waiting for Jesus' second coming.
Many people find it interesting to speculate about the time for the
end of the world. Since the 19th century, some Christian Fundamentalists
have predicted many times the exact time of the end of the world. They
announce the end of the world in order to urge people to prepare. “The
End is coming” they say, and use this as a means to spread religion.
At the time of the second millenium they used this point in preaching,
using people's fear of death or pessimism about society to urge people
to turn to Christ.
At the beginning of 1990, I received a letter from a seminarian in China.
He said that his mother who had been a fervent Catholic, for some unknown
reason came to believe in one of the Fundamentalist groups. Some group
members insisted that the end of the world would come soon. They persuaded
her to donate the family buffalo and farm equipment to the church, then
‘wait for Christ's coming’.
At Jesus' Ascension, the disciples also asked Jesus to tell them about
the end of the world. But Jesus did not give in to their curiosity.
He said to them, “It is not for you to
know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.”
Jesus admitted that he himself did not know the hour: “But
about that hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the
Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:32) It is indeed foolish
to publicly prophesy something about which even the angels in heaven
and the Son are uncertain.
Once someone asked Confucius whether the dead had consciousness or not.
Confucius replied: “If I say the dead 'have consciousness' I am afraid
that some people would pay more attention to the dead and neglect the
living. If I say the dead 'do not have consciousness' I am afraid some
people would not bury their dead parents but leave them lying in the
wilderness. So, no matter what reply I give you, it would not do you
any good. In fact, if you want to know whether the dead have consciousness
or not, wait until you are dead and you will know. Why bother asking
such a question now?”(3)
Confucius is the Master Sage who knows 'The right attitude towards Life'.
He seldom talked about a future life, or something of which he was not
certain or had no experience. If he mentioned the future it was to enable
people to live the present life to the full.
Jesus did the same. He preferred to put himself into God's hands without
questioning. He accepted the limitation of being human, of living out
the mystery of the Incarnation, of being fully the “Word made Flesh.”
Why then do we waste time in worrying or trying to predict the exact
time of the end of the world if Jesus himself didn't want to know?
Today's reading tells us that Jesus for certain will come again, but
we do not know the exact time. Therefore we must prepare well throughout
our entire life, never neglecting to live as well as we can. We live
in the shadow of the future, facing the uncertainty of life. But this
is exactly the challenge and joy of being human.
What does it matter 'when that time will come' if we do our best to
love God and other people, do both big and small deeds well, are faithful
servants, lead lives of piety, daily fulfill what God asks of us, leave
no debt unpaid or offense unforgiven? What matters it then when the
Lord comes? Would we really live differently
If we thought his coming would be later?
He will come back, 'whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow,
or in the morning'. Therefore, if we are always prepared, we will welcome
him with a joyous heart whenever he comes. For that will be the time
for us to return to our Father's house and receive the reward of eternal