Sunday, November 30, 2008

You better watch out, I'm telling you why

First Sunday of Advent

"...May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!"
(Mk 13:33-37)

The first Sunday of Advent heralds the Christmas season. This occasion prompts us to ponder the first coming by the birth of the Lord our Savior, His second coming at the final judgment, and our preparation in between. Over the past days, I noticed that all the daily Gospel readings speaks of the Final Judgment and how to prepare for it.

In this I am reminded again of my college days when our professors used to give us "take-home" essay exams. The exam questions are given way in advance, and we have the luxury of thoroughly researching in the library, discussing with our fellow students, and consulting with the upper-class as we compose our answers. As is usual in my case, I postpone the effort until the last minute, preferring to cram for the exam until the day before or even minutes before final submission and grading. A few times I get lucky but many times I do not, which is just as to be expected.

I guess this pretty much illustrates most of our attitudes towards the Final Judgment. Life is like one big take-home exam. We have been given the questions and enough guidance beforehand, we know very well and have so much time and resources to prepare, yet we choose to ignore or even hope to cram at the last minute. As it comes "like a thief in the night", it reminds us of the good fortune of the thief on the cross, and somehow hope we can likewise pull a fast one. Today’s Gospel reminds us to "Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning..". We usually think it comes in the distant future that is so much far from worry, yet the Scriptures clearly reveal that it can come at any time. It can even come in the next few seconds as one reads this piece! Those of us who choose to gamble with our souls would probably not have enough time to regret our bets.

The story is told of one of St. Thomas More's friends who was a great gambler. St. Thomas used to admonish him that it was time to stop his reckless living and turn to God.

"Oh, I always win in the end", was the reply.

"But what if you die suddenly, with no time to get a priest?", said Thomas More.

"I'll take the risk. Luck is always on my side. If it ever comes to that, I rely on three little words to save me. I would at least have the time to say the three words: 'Lord, forgive me', and I should be saved".

One day as they were both riding home, their horses got nervous crossing a bridge. The gambler's horse suddenly reared and he was flung over the bridge rails. As he was pitched through the air headlong down to the rocks below, he had enough time to loudly exclaim his three last words: "What the hell...".

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