Matthew 24:37-44
Stay Awake by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

Jesus said to his disciples: "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.  They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.  So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.  Therefore, stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."

Have you ever had the experience of frantically looking for something in the kitchen or the office, knowing that the object is there somewhere, only to find that it was staring you in the face the whole time?  Somehow, you just keep looking past it.  Or, have you found yourself going through a normal day, following the usual routine, taking care of everyday tasks, only to find at the end of the day that you missed something significant that was right before your eyes?  Maybe your spouse gets a brand new haircut, your child has a horrible day, or a friend brings you a gift and you just fail to observe and respond properly.  You are too caught up in the daily grind.

This happens in a rather dramatic way in the Old Testament story of Noah and the flood that Jesus alludes to in the Gospel of Matthew.  The people wander far from the Lord, failing to worship Him and follow the way of life marked out for them.  This obstinate people does not grasp the seriousness of their folly.  The Lord then sends rain for 40 days and 40 nights, a rather huge sign and the people continue with their lives without realizing that something special is happening.  The water keeps rising, but they continue on with life as usual, "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.  They did not know until the flood came and carried them away."  (Mt24:38-39)

Sometimes our folly, our inability to see something important, is the result of innocent, human error.  sometimes, our folly is the fruit of negligence, inattentiveness or a lack of focus that we are quite responsible for.

Advent is a season in the Church's year when we are invited to perk up, look a little more deeply at the world around us and make sure that we are not missing something important.  More specifically, we recall the great event of God-with-us, the Son of the living God entering our world in a wildly wonderful new manner.  We gratefully remember this event and seek to let its meaning bring new life to our everyday existence.  We also remember that Christ will come again at the end of time to bring His saving work to its dramatic conclusion and usher in the fullness of the kingdom of God.  We look back at His first Advent and look forward to His second Advent, in order to invite Him to come anew into our hearts in December 2010.

Jesus knows that we are easily distracted by life's routines and its daily crosses as well as its temporary thrills like vacations or a good concert.  So, He invites us to be wise, to get focused and to be prepared.  '"Therefore, stay awake! "Be prepared?"

As members of the Church, we prepare by taking the opportunity to focus on the great event of the Incarnation, Jesus' choice to take on our human flesh by being born of the Virgin.  This event demonstrates God's amazing humility and His incredible care for His children.  When we encounter the living Jesus today, the same Lord who crashed into our world and became an infant child, we come to trust that He cares for us radically, that He is constantly looking for ways to draw near to us, bring us an uncanny strength in the face of trials and empower us to love those around us sacrificially. In other words, we become able to see Him and His loving hand in our daily lives.  In time, we begin to realize that He is always there, never leaving our side, always shepherding and guiding us.

Advent is a time to wake up from the daze, to focus on what is more important in life and to live in hope.  The God who loves us so much that He became one of us, continues to come into our world and allow us to encounter Him in new and abundant ways. Make every effort to avoid letting the daily routine of life distract you from this encounter with God's Son.  He will help you to find what you are looking for.

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