FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Anticipate the Future
First Reading (Is 2: 1-5): The
Lord will gather all people into His kingdom
Second Reading (Rom 13: 11: 14): Salvation is near, we should stay awake
Gospel (Mt 24: 37-44): Be alert, prepare for the coming of the Son of
-“While you do not know life, how can you know about death? (While you
do not know about death, how can you know about life?)”(1)
“You must keep awake and be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at
an unexpected hour. (cf Mt 24: 42-44)
Advent is the New Year Day of the Church's liturgical year, it marks
the first day of the Church's calendar year. Strange as it seems, today's
Readings are about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ.
Jesus reminds his disciples that they must be ready at all times. They
should not be like people at the time of Noah who would not believe
the flood was going to destroy the earth. Even as catastrophe approached,
they remained befuddled. They ridiculed Noah, so when the flood waters
came they were all swept away.
Jesus said that the coming of the Son of Man would be like that, suddenly,
when people were unprepared. Therefore he said, “You
must keep awake and be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected
hour.” (cf Mt 24: 42-44)
To talk about the end of the world at the New Year makes sense. At
this point I would like to share with you an important topic, and that
is bringing the future into the present; beginning with the future,
connecting up the future with the present time.
Confucius has a famous saying, ”While you do not know about life, how
can you know about death?”(1)
That is to say, if you do not know what life is all
about, how can you understand what we mean by death? If you cannot understand
life, something that is within your grasp, which you can manage every
day, how can you ever comprehend death which you cannot manage and with
which you have little contact.
So the saying, ‘while you do not know life, how can you know about
death’ really is quite reasonable. But there is another side to the
saying and that is, ”while you do not know about death, how can you
know about life.” That is to say, how can we live today if we do not
know about death? It is similar to not knowing our final destination
so we do not know the way to go. If we do not know the general circumstances
of the road ahead, how can we know how to prepare? If we do not know
if the place where we are going will be hot or cold, how will we know
to bring the right clothing?
Today is determined by the future; life is determined by death. This
is what is meant by the saying, “If you do not know about death, how
can you know about life?” We should be positive about death, accept
it, try to understand it. Only in that way can we know how to live and
especially how to live in the present.
Once I heard someone say, “I hope that when I was born I was crying
and everyone around me was smiling. But I hope even more that when I
die I will be smiling and others will be weeping for me.” Why would
I be smiling? Because I would have led a good life, completed my life's
journey with glory. It is as the Apostle Paul said,, “I
have fought the good fight, I have finished the race.”
It is why he could say with pride, “What remains is for me to receive
the crown of eternal life.” (Ref 2 Tim 4: 7-8)
I hope that how I die in the future will determine how I live my life
today. That is bringing the future into the present. Or as we said,
“Anticipate the future.” This is not a sophisticated philosophy of life
but a reality that can be illustrated by many examples. For example,
if I want to have good results in my studies, I must work hard now;
if I hope to have success in dating I must learn how to understand,
accept, appreciate and be tolerant of the other.
“While you do not know about death, how can you know about life?”(1)
Only when we are clear about life's goal can we know the road that leads
Here we should be aware of two points. First, we must be alert, as
it is written in the Epistle to the Romans: “You
know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from
sleep. The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside
the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably
as in the day .” (Rom 13: 11 – 13)
To ‘live honorably as in the day’ means to put aside deeds of ‘darkness’
and live in ‘brightness,’ seeing clearly where we are going, what are
our ideals and what road we must take. As Isaiah said, “Let
us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths. They shall beat their swords into
ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. (Is
This is the world we want to make, our future vista. In the future
weapons that kill will be turned into tools of production, reasons for
initiating battles will become terms for peace. We know this is our
goal and from this day on we will live for this.
We must work hard, we must be sober. From now on we direct our lives
toward the future. As of today this road is the direction we choose
Only when we put forth lifelong effort into this, can we reach our
final destination and be smiling when we die, because we have finished
life's journey, completed our life. All those around us will weep for
us because they have lost a good friend, a good partner, a good companion,
who has traveled together on the same beautiful life journey. They have
lost a friend who could enlighten their lives and encourage them to
continue the struggle for life.
If we want to be smiling when we die and our associates weep for us,
we must begin today to bring the future into the present.
Let us begin today to live life as we hope it will end so that we will
have no regrets at the time of death. At this time of New Year let us
reflect on the end of time, as new life begins, let us think of death.
Let us understand life as well as death, understand death as well as
life. From this day on let us bring the future into the present!