NOVEMBER 27, 2016
A story about three student devils who were being dispatched to the earth to finish their training begins this way: Satan himself took time off from his many duties and interviewed them. To the first: "How will you operate?" Said he: "I will instruct them that God does not exist." The Devil shook his head: "Common, you can do much better than that. Most know God does exist." The second, hoping to score points, chirped: "I will argue that hell does not exist." Satan was annoyed: "After millions of abortions, all kinds of violence, corruption and abuses people know well that hell exists."
The last said breathlessly: "I will tell all that they have plenty of time to prepare themselves." Satan beamed with satisfaction: "Good woman! Why aren't your male colleagues as clever as you? Do that and you'll bring them down here by the billions."
Most of us delight in telling ourselves that we have plenty of time to set the record straight with God. I know many of you are healthy and expect to live up to a 100 years old! Yet, if you want to see God laugh, tell Him about your plans for the next day. It has been argued that one of the most dangerous words in any language is the word that spells "tomorrow." If we put off a rapprochement with God in the here and now, we have bought the advice of the third apprentice devil. Maybe some of us might not make Christmas Day. It is four weeks away, after all. Last Saturday a boy walked home with me after the early morning Mass. In the evening, he fell off from his scooter during the rain and died instantly. He was only 17 years old and in grade 12. St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans advises us in his usual no-nonsense style: "Realize what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For now your salvation is nearer than when you first believed."
The eminently quotable prophet Isaiah invites us "to go up to the mountains of the Lord...that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths." Each of us would do well to make this line the motivation of our respective Advent this fresh liturgical year.
Yesterday is history as the wise advise us. Tomorrow is but a promissory note. And today is the only reality. Live then, as though each day is our last and someday we will be right. Once we learn how to die, we can learn how to live.
The Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent would have us get our affairs, especially our spiritual ones, in order. We should give as much attention to this detail as we give to getting prepared for Christmas itself. In effect, we are advised by the Church to move along our preparations for the Christmas that will never end. Plan then, as if Jesus' return were years away but live as if it were today.
If you are wondering what areas of your life you should improve, check it out with St Paul. He ticks off such popular pastimes as heavy drinking, sexual misconduct, arguing, and jealousy… You can take it from there. The Apostle Paul obviously spent many long hours to receive the prodigal sons and daughters. As we hopefully renew our spiritual journey this Advent, we might carry with us the command of the Lord, "Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming."
Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22: 20)