29 November 2013

WASTING TIME

1st Sunday of Advent
Mt 24:37-44 (Is 2:1-5 / Ps 122 / Rom 13:11-14)

Today is New Year in the Church.  Happy New Year!  Today, the first Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year.  We start counting again the days, the weeks, and the seasons in our life as Church.  January 1 is New Year for civil society, but the first Sunday of Advent is New Year for the ecclesial community.

Unfortunately, Advent is the most unpopular season of the year.  The world does not like it.  It skips it all together.  For the world – and for the worldly! – there is no Advent Season.  It jumps into Christmas right away.  In the Philippines, for example, though it prides itself as a Christian nation in the Far East, it seems that everybody simply goes with the tide that rises with Christmas pitch as early as September.  Where is Advent?  What has happened to the Advent Season?

The Advent Season is a special time for waiting.  And lest we think that we wait only for Christmas, the Advent Season focuses our vigilant and creative waiting not only on the anniversary of the Lord’s Birth but also on His coming again at the end of time.  The truth is preparing for the Lord’s coming again at the end of time is more important than waiting for Christmas day to come.  Thus, the Advent Season, while divided into two parts, is largely preoccupied with preparing us for the second coming of Christ.  Jesus came on Christmas day.  Let us prepare well to celebrate His birthday.  Jesus will come again at the end of time.  Let us prepare well to welcome Him.

“Time is gold” – so says a wise saying.  Early in life, we have been taught not to waste time, never to procrastinate, and to seize the day (“Carpe diem!”).  Because we are often thrown into the middle of a rat-race life, many of us think that waiting is nothing but a waste of time.  This must be the reason why the Advent Season is not as popular as it should be.

But the Advent Season is not a waste of time.  On the contrary, the Advent Season teaches us to value time.  It disciplines us to wait for the right time.  And when the right time comes, we are truly and better prepared for it because we waited as we should.  Rushing is flirting with danger.  Hurrying is courting failure.  Waiting saves us from danger and largely minimizes the possibility of epic fail.

The Advent Season is not a waste of time.  Rather, the Advent Season questions us what we do with time.  Bumming around is a waste of time.  Irresponsibly staying up late at night and waking up too late in the morning is a waste of time.  Gossiping is a waste of time.  Day dreaming is a waste of time.  Regretful thinking is a waste of time.  Delaying a kind act, a kind word, a kind thought is a waste of time.  But waiting is never a waste of time because waiting does not mean that we are doing nothing.

One of the many things we may do for a vigilant and creative waiting during Advent is to ask our selves, “What am I doing with the time that God gives me?”  Please be honest with your answer, for each of us is accountable to God for the way we use the time He gives us.

Time is precious because we have only so much of it.  There are only twenty-four hours of it in a day.  There are only seven days of it in a week.  There are only four weeks of it in a month.  There are only twelve months of it in a year.  There are only ten years of it in a decade.  And how many decades of it do we have in our lifetime – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight?  Only a privilege few reach past their nineties.  Time is precious and so we need to regularly and honestly examine how we make use of it.  The Advent Season should help us in this very important and personal task.  Waiting is not a waste of time; it puts time in its proper perspective.  And puts you and me where we should be.

All the readings today, the first Sunday of Advent, the New Year in the Church, deliver to us the perennial call of God’s Word: Be prepared.  The Prophet Isaiah in the first reading speaks of the days to come when the Lord shall fulfill His promise of peace to Israel.  The Apostle Paul in the second reading points to the Roman believers that the time of the Lord is actually already now, dawning on the whole of creation.  The Evangelist Matthew in the Gospel reminds us of the words of Jesus about His return at an hour we do not expect.  All three readings encourage those who are preparing themselves to remain vigilant in their waiting, while those who are intoxicated by the pleasures of this world to wake up from their slumber not later but now.  It is the latter, not the former, that waste time, and what a sorry lot they shall be when the waiting is over.

Let us keep on reminding the world of the Advent Season.  Let not the shouts of consumerism deaden the silence of Advent waiting.  Let not the fast pace of worldly life drag us to Christmas celebrations at the expense of the Advent Season.  May we teach the world to vigilantly and creatively wait for the Lord.  With the flame that rises from the first Advent candle we lit today is our prayer: May the light of Jesus’ coming warm the hearts of the indifferent and illumine lives of the hopeless.  By our faith-filled prayer we keep our vigil and by concrete deeds of charity we sustain our waiting.  Let us be Advent candles ourselves for Jesus and for one another.

Yes, the Advent Season is not a waste of time.  But now I say, “it is!”  The Advent Season is you and me wasting time for God.  And surely He deserves it from us.



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