THE FOREVER PRESENT

Rev. John Kha Tran

A small two-seater Airplane landed at a “secret” United States Air Force base. The aircraft was immediately impounded, and the pilot was interrogated. The pilot’s story was that he got lost and spotted the base just as he was about to run out of fuel. He was held overnight as the FBI investigated his background.

The next day, officials were convinced the pilot really was lost and wasn’t a spy. They refuelled his airplane, swore him to secrecy, threatened him that if he landed again at the base he would spend the rest of his life in prison and then let him go.

The next day, to the disbelief of the Air Force personnel, the same small plane landed there again. Once again, MPs surrounded the plane . . . only this time there were two people in the plane. The same pilot jumped out and said, “Do anything you want to me, but my wife is in the plane, and you have to tell her where I was last night.”

Jesus says that he will come again. Do you believe him? If you do, then what are you doing about his message? “You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming . . . What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!”

Advent is the season of waiting with anticipation. Every year, the Church is reminding us to look at the true meaning and spirit of Advent:

  • Advent is a time of waiting and expecting!
  • It is a time of longing for God to come.
  • It is a time of waiting and watching for Christ's return.

Waiting

For many people, this is the season of waiting in lines for Christmas shopping, waiting for packages to come in the mail, waiting for children to give you their Christmas lists, waiting in line to have your picture taken with Santa, waiting for your Christmas bonus check, waiting in traffic, waiting for a parking space, waiting at the post office to mail your packages etc.

For us Christians, we are waiting for the second coming of Christ. And we anticipate his coming at any time. It is a mistake to anticipate and prepare only for Christmas. We have no problem to make preparation for Christmas celebration. On Thanksgiving Day, early in the morning, I received a heavy plastic bag full of advertise papers at the rectory’s door. Christmas shopping season has already started at the day after Thanksgiving, a “door buster” day. Signs of sales and announcements are posted at every store: “Christmas countdown, “doors open midnight tonight,” “Our lowest prices ever!” Christmas lights have been on everywhere in our city. Stores and malls are beautifully decorated full of lights and colours. People are anxiously and excitedly preparing for Christmas. Whether we want it or not, we are exposed to and influenced by the secular and commercial world. But it is alright to be anxious and excited about Christmas season. We are glad that Jesus is the season and reason for Christmas. It is alright to shop and to look for good deals. This is part of human life. We are proud that a Christian celebration is playing a great part for the recovery of the economy. But it would be a mistake if Christmas celebration is the only reason for us to wait and anticipate. As we are preparing to celebrate Christmas, we are also anticipating the second coming of Christ.

Anticipating

Jesus tells us to wait and be watchful for his second coming. He can come at any time. He uses the image of a land owner who goes on a journey, but leaves his servants, “each with his own work” to do. The challenge is not just to stay awake, but awake so as to do the work of bringing light and life to God’s world. We are like those servants left in charge of a house till their master returns. Since they do not know when he will come back, "whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning," they need to be ready constantly so the master does not find them asleep when he returns. We can be either vigilant or asleep. Be watchful and stay awake does not mean that we have to be always praying at the church. It also does not mean that we have to abandon everything in order to wait for the coming of Christ. Waiting and watching out of fear is passive and paralyzing. It does no good. Waiting in faith is eager and exciting. It means to continue doing what we are doing with a sense of hope for a great reward. It means to stay connected with God in everything we do. To be watchful means to always stay on our Christian duty. Each of us has been entrusted with a duty in life. My duty is being a priest to serve the people of God. Your duty might be a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son or a daughter, or a student. Whatever we are called to do, we do it with a Christian attitude. Christian attitude means we always look to the life beyond this life. We are on a journey into eternal life. As the Church prays at the opening prayer today, “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming. So that they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.” We love our Christmas presents, but the present from the Second coming of Christ is much better. To receive this second coming present, God expects us to carry out our daily duties faithfully in the spirit of anticipation that Jesus Christ can come at any moment.

Our Advent Attitudes

On the watch! Saty awake! Be faithful to our tasks! Waiting for Christ's return.

If Christ comes and find us blameless and faithful on our duties, we will be blessed with the greatest present. This present is from God and it has endless value. It is the present of eternal life.  But what happen if Christ comes and find us off duty, living in sin, not doing what we are supposed to do, not living the way we supposed to be living?

St. Paul, in the second reading, assures the Corinthians that they have nothing to fear from the final coming of Jesus. God has called them to fellowship with Jesus and God is faithful. Christ will strengthen them to the end, so that they will be blameless on the day Jesus comes! The Corinthians are quite conscious of the spiritual gifts they have received from God, but they are not as mindful of the final coming of Jesus. We are no different. We just celebrated Thanksgiving. We are aware of the gifts and blessings God has given us. We thank God for it. But not many people are seriously concerned or expecting of Jesus’ return.  Many people are expecting and anticipating Christmas gifts; but not so many are expecting and anticipating the gift of eternal life. As a matter of fact, many people are trying everything possible to delay receiving this gift. When they cannot avoid it, they reluctantly accept it. None of us wants to look forward to our death! None of us wants to look forward to the final day of the world. We want to act as if life goes on forever.

These Advent days are getting busier, packed, brighter and louder. What we want is to take times to experience the gift of redemption that God wants to offer us. We can take times to appreciate the gift of eternal life waiting for us at the end. We can be more watchful and alert to how much God loves us, and how many ways there are to bring Christ to life in the world around us.