December 1, 2019, First Sunday of Advent. A reflection on Matthew 24:36-44.
“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (v42)
While the Advent Season is the prelude to the Christmas season it should be understood that it is looking beyond the annual celebration of the nativity of the Lord Jesus. In fact in our reading today Jesus is preaching about the coming of the Son of Man in the eschatological event, the second coming when the Judge-God comes and makes the verdict for those who participates in the race to become inheritors of His kingdom.
But unlike the 2019 SEA GAMES (South-East Asian Games) that was already determined when to happen as early as two years ago, but the hosting is not yet prepared as good as expected, we do not know when is the Son of Man comes, that is why Jesus has to forewarn His disciples, followers, the first audience of His speech to keep awake.
Today’s assigned theme of the four Sundays of Advent is Hope as we lit the first candle of our advent wreathe – the next are Love, Joy and Peace. Keeping awake while hoping is an active waiting in contrast to the passive waiting and doing nothing. But how is it to keep or stay awake? Jesus continued by saying that vigilance is needed. He said, “But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.”
In hoping and waiting, we have to be actively vigilant because we are hoping against H-O-P-E which are identified as the Hindrances, Oppressions, Pretenders and Evils of society.
Hoping against hindrances brought about by our own wrong views and knowledge about our faith which is seen in our deeds. Faith by the way according to the teaching of the church is the way to our salvation and inheritance to the Kingdom of God. Most often we demonstrated that our faith in God is weak when we are confronted with the choice to be biased with the poor and the needy over and above our own self, our own safety, our own economic security, our own properties and even our own position in the society. Apostle Paul clamored, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). We must keep awake and be vigilant against hindrances of our own.
Hoping against oppressions brought about by the leaders of the land who themselves are or supported by the business tycoons who trampled upon the dignity of the lowly – the poor farmers, the laborers, the indigenous peoples, the urban poor, the women, children and the LGBTIQ+ communities. Our Jesus of history was battling against the oppressors. He was not detached from the people – His own people. He was with them from His birth in the poor manger until He grew up with His father Joseph the worker and carpenter. He lived with them, prayed and worked with them with joyful and painful experiences – as He is the Word made flesh and dwelt amongst His people (John 1:14). We too must do our own battle and must keep awake and be vigilant against oppressions.
Hoping against the pretenders – they are those who pretend to be among us but prevents and stops us from doing the right things to be done for many reasons but the common denominator is to keep the status quo. They can be church leaders – lay and ordained who spoke beautifully and carefully deceiving words for the good of the church and parishioners or congregations and preached sugar-coated sermons but do not read and speak about the signs of the times and the writings on the walls – and even literally call them vandalism just to ignore the correctness of its message. They often speak to us as if they care about us. They stop us so that we will not be in peril but don’t get deceived by them. By doing the same, Jesus rebuked and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matt 16:23). We must keep awake and be vigilant against the pretenders around us.
Most of all we are hoping against the evils of society – those that caused the social malady and extreme poverty of the people.
These evils are: 1) The concentration of vast tracks of land to few local elites enslaving the people to work under unfair conditions including low or zero wages and whose lives are largely dependent on the mercy of their landlords; 2) In a world where capitalist countries or the super powers are taking over poorer or weaker countries and siphoned the resources of these small countries to support their needs. When these super powers dumped their surplus products and capitals in forms of aides and loans to small countries thereby dominating and influencing the internal politics and economic policies of the latter making them dependently tied up to these forms and norms; 3) When a society is governed by leaders who run the state like their own business and sources of their financial and material possessions at the expense of the people they supposed and promised to serve. They are collaborators and supporters of the foreign capitalist, local business elites and the landlords.
In Jesus time, the evils of the society are the Roman Empire and the Jewish landed elites as their collaborators who also occupies the leadership of the society – King Herod and the Sanhedrin led by the High Priest Caiaphas who led the plot to kill Jesus (John 11:45ff). Pontius Pilate who knew Jesus was not a criminal but has to decide in favor of the people led by the Sanhedrin who warned to report to Cesar the Emperor if not favored.
In our time, in the so called Third countries like the Philippines, they are the imperialist powers and capitalist countries who are interventionist to our internal economy – they are but not limited to USA and China in collaboration with their local cohorts, the leaders of the land who ran the government, those manipulating the congress and the landlords who own the haciendas and vast tracks of land in Luzon, Visayas and even in Mindanao. They are also the church leaders who worship their political patrons and prophesied falsely against the people.
Sister and brothers, in our hope for the Kingdom and as we anticipate the ‘second coming’ we must keep awake by vigilantly waiting even if we are hoping against the H-O-P-E – the hindrances, the oppressions, the pretenders and the evils of society. Amen.
Until next for the Second Sunday of Advent.