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First Sunday – Year A – Advent
Readings: Isa 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44.
1/ Reading I: RSV Isaiah 2:1 The word which Isaiah the son of Amos saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 13:11 Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; 12 the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 24:37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
I. THEME: We must learn before know how to behave.
In our modern society, whoever wants to become an expert, such as: a professor, a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer, he must study and pass many exams before is certified to work in his field. The same thing happens in the religion; in order to enter the heaven, people need to know and to practice God’s teaching. A very dangerous attitude of the faithful is that they only need to believe in God and live a good life; they don’t need to learn and to practice what God teaches. But St. James said, “Faith without works is dead,” and how can one know he is living a good life?
Another dangerous attitude is people think they already know everything and don’t need to learn anymore! This is only an imagination and people must often pay a dearly price for their imprudent decision due to their ignorance. In order to make a prudent decision, people need to learn from God, who creates, governs and guides people to a certain purpose. God doesn’t force people to do what He wants because He created people as the subjects with freedom. He wants to guide people so that people know how to use their prudence and freedom to do things that benefit them.
Today readings emphasize the need to learn from God in order for people to know how to act properly. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah foresaw the day which all human beings shall turn toward Jerusalem and Judah to learn and to be guided by God. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Thessalonians to be wise in recognizing signs of time and in behaving properly in special circumstances. In the Gospel, Jesus forewarned people that if they aren’t awakened and ready for Christ’s second coming, they shall be destroyed as all those in the Great Flood except Noah’s family who knew how to prepare.
1/ Reading I: “He may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
1.1/ People need to learn truths from God: People are surrounded by worldly falsities. For example, a Latin adage said, “Si vis pacem, para bellum,” translated as, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” This adage wants to say: If people want to have peace, their nation needs to have powerful armies to fight and to confiscate other nations’ resources; or at least causes them to fear so that they shall not think about invading their country. Therefore, they use all possible ways to conquer their neighboring nations. They forgot one thing that all people want to live; once are closed up, their enemy shall fight forcefully to protect their life. War and hatred shall continue to spread out from one generation to the next. Therefore, force isn’t the way to have peace and happiness.
How can people have a true peace? The answer is that people need to learn the truth from God. Isaiah’s vision in the first reading let people know what shall happen for them in the future concerning Jerusalem and Judah, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
1.2/ The good results from knowing how to behave: The prophet Isaiah revealed for people the truth, God is the only One who has power over all nations, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples.” The history of the world often shows that there is no empire, which wickedly treated other nations, shall survive. Many times, the Old Testament’s prophets proved that true peace and happiness aren’t come from weapons, but only from nations who revere God and behave justly with people. When people know how to build up peace, weapons used to destroy people in wars shall be no longer needed; people shall convert them to useful instruments for their living, as Isaiah described, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
2/ Reading II: “Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Living in the world, we must face not only the power of devil and the world, but also the power of our own flesh. St. Paul wants the faithful to be conscious of the power inside their body and to guard against it.
2.1/ Must know the time they are in: Before knowing how to fight against them, the faithful must know the situation. St. Paul said, “You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Our ultimate purpose when we live in the world is to reach God’s salvation. He only let us to live in a certain time to achieve this purpose. Every day passes by we are close to our death; therefore, we must seize all opportunities to work for our salvation. Many people have an illusory imagination that they still have a long time to live; so they want to enjoy their life to the fullest. When they are in sickness or know their life is going to end, they are worried and start to prepare; but it is unfortunate for them, it is too late!
2.2/ Must know how to fight against it: After recognized the seriousness of the situation, people must act immediately. St. Paul isn’t purely theoretical, he suggests the concrete things to do:
(1) What the faithful need to avoid: Firstly, they must get out of darkness by casting out the following bad habits:
– Revelry and drunkenness: Eating too much makes people heavy, sleepy and have no power to do good things. Drinking too much makes people to be drunkards, to have darkened minds and to confuse between good and evil. A Vietnamese adage says, “A sound mind is in a healthy body.” This sentence wants to emphasize the relation between eating and drinking and people’s intellectual life.
– Debauchery and licentiousness: People need strength and time to work, to learn and to help others. When people waste their time and strength for debauchery and licentiousness, they shall have no strength and time to preach the gospel, to practice virtues and to help others. Besides they have to endure all kinds of sickness due to unlimited licentiousness.
– Quarreling and jealousy: The faithful’s duties are to love others and to build up peace. If the faithful orient their life around eating, drinking and sexual activities, they must find enough money for this lifestyle. These worldly desires shall turn them to become selfish, jealous and contentious people.
– Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires: This sentence opens up to other sins than sexual sins, such as: greedy for money, fame and power. The First Letter of John clearly explained this connection, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn 2:15-17).
(2) What the faithful need to do: They must live in light by putting on Christ. St. Paul explained when the faithful are baptized, they take off their old self with all bad habits and evil desires so that they can put on their new self which is Christ. Therefore, the faithful must train to live like Christ. In the Letter to the Colossians, Paul listed all the necessary virtues which the faithful must have to live like Christ, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. Be thankful” (Col 3:12-15).
3/ Gospel: “The Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
3.1/ We must learn from signs: Continuing the thoughts of last days of the year, the liturgy of the Word wants to remind people the two important things: First, the Last Day shall certainly and unexpectedly come. In today passage, Jesus illustrates with a historical event and life-experience to help people to draw out a lesson for themselves.
(1) From the Great Flood: Jesus said to them a historical event, “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man.” Only Noah’s family was saved because they believed and did according to God’s instruction.
(2) From our life-experience: Jesus reminded them of life-experience, “But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Before the thief visits a house, he carefully learns to see when the householder is absent or doesn’t pay attention. Most of burglaries often happen at night or early morning when people are soundly slept.
3.2/ We must be on guard and ready: Many people thought that how can God differentiate between the good and the wicked amidst so many people of this world? Today’s passage shows us the accuracy of God’s judgment, “Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to know the truth before we can do it. Understanding the truth also helps us to recognize and to avoid the world’s falsities.
– To understand the truth, we need to come and to learn from Christ for he is God’s wisdom, Who creates, governs and guides all things to a certain purpose.
– Not only we need to know the truth, but also to do the truth in order to have benefits for our life. The most important thing of our life is to prepare and to be ready for Christ’s second coming.