WelCom December 2019
First Sunday of Advent – Mt 24:37-44
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.’
Advent; stay awake, Christ is coming
A Reflection on Matthew 24:37-44
This summer month we celebrate Christmas. It is a time to relax in the sun and use these long summer nights for BBQs and social celebrations with family and friends. Today we are instructed to stay awake. This Christmas story (Mt 24:37-44) occurs centuries after the story of Noah and the flood. Yet Jesus refers to Noah’s story here in one of Matthew’s final chapters. Noah and his family were saved from the flood because unlike the rest of their community who were ignoring God by eating, drinking and living it up, they lived close to God. ‘Noah was a good man, a man of integrity among his contemporaries, and he walked with God.’ (Gen 6:9.)
Thousands of decades later, we are warned about denying Our Lord and told to stay awake. How do we interpret this advice? What does ‘staying awake’ mean for us today? Just consider 2019 in retrospect. Tragedy befell our nation in Christchurch on 15 March. This resulted in New Zealand’s population coming together in prayer, sympathy and love, and heeding Christ’s command to love one another. The population supported Parliament’s strengthening the environment laws. Many, in their support, may not realise an encyclical on ecology and climate entitled Laudato Si’, written by Pope Francis and published on 24 May 2015, directs this advice to all the world. In the context of today’s reading, this encyclical is encouraging evidence that our Pope is concerned about contemporary issues and is ‘staying awake’ as Our Lord instructed. What about us?
Catholics see two other landmark parliament decisions that do not receive the approval of our Church. The Abortion Legislation Bill 2019 had not been completed. However, it appears from this bill that abortion will be withdrawn from the crimes act and that a woman may self-refer to an abortion service within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. A health practitioner may grant an abortion to a woman after 20 weeks in some circumstances. This is 2019 and placing a line in the sand is no longer an appropriate way of expressing our beliefs. For example, the organisation ‘Voice for Life’ may perhaps better use its skills by promoting the wonder of children rather than focusing on the murder of the foetus. Are we Catholics ‘staying awake’?
The second landmark that warrants our attention issue is the End of Life Choice Bill. This may be an election issue next year. Parliamentary discussions appear to be going around in circles on this issue. Despite all the discussion, few, be they politicians or electors, appear to understand the complex issue of taking a life. Our lives are too precious for that.
The words of today’s gospel leave us in no doubt that we must ‘stay awake’. In today’s world this means properly understanding issues we may have to vote on and work together on. There is a need to promote a strategy that represents our faith in action in a way that helps to make our world a better place for all to live in, especially those in less fortunate circumstances than ourselves.