Advent is always for a new beginning; the cycle of the New Year begins rolling. At the same time we have a message that the ‘the Kingdom is already here but, not yet’, a message to be awake and watchful.
Jesus in his eschatological prophesy speaks of a choice: ‘of the two one will be taken and the other left behind’. It is our understanding that the choice to be taken or left behind is done or is to be done not by the one who takes but by one taken. It is we that decide to follow or not to follow Jesus. Following Jesus is be on his terms and not ours. In order to enter the kingdom of heaven our righteousness should surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees, that is, we cannot stop at the minimum, but have to go beyond; not to go with the current but to go against it; not to be judged by what is ‘politically correct’, but by what is morally imperative.
Prophet Isaiah foresees the people going “to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his path” (Isaiah 2:3). Next week we will hear John the Baptist thundering: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:3). In today’s gospel Jesus is at the other end of the spectrum, still on his discourse on the things that will happen at the end. In a way it is the Alpha meeting the Omega, or the beginning and the end meet together. That stage of development could be said as ‘already, not yet’.
Being included in the company of those redeemed by the Lord is the already. The redemption is achieved on the part of the Lord. On our part we have to appropriate it to ourselves. That is the ‘not yet’ part, and that is an ongoing process for the duration of our life on earth. Because of our human frailty we need to be reminded of it, go through a process of continuous refinement, fine tuning and even repair. Advent is the time we begin that process anew. Let us begin.
It is not necessarily a period of penance, it is a period of expectant hope; there is also penitence and repairing; there is a rechecking and repairing of our three-pronged orientations, namely, orientations to God, to our brothers and sisters and to our own self. We need to be reminded that we here on earth are just stewards of our time, talent and treasure and are in need of giving an accounting, that we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters, that we all are part of the big family of God and that we are on our pilgrimage to homeland!