Purpose: The listeners must be confused and disturbed so that they accept the call to vigilance and thus prepare for the start of Advent.
Not to miss the opportunity while there is a time watch, then, exclamation point, because you don’t know. You do not know which day and at which hour (cf. Mt 24:42). Maybe we don’t even want to know. Dear believers, we understand. Perhaps it is better not to know when it will come to us. A colleague told me about a funeral. The woman had no thought of death. On the contrary, she had plans for the next few days, for the coming years. In the evening, she went to bed as always. But in the morning, the man next to him found her lying dead. Many people wish for just such a death. Which doesn’t even touch life very much. When it comes, it is already dead. And so it was then. At least one thinks so.
I’m afraid it wasn’t like that at all back then. Because there is still so much left: The missed opportunity to see the grandchildren one more time, to give them courage, to bless them, to wish them all the happiness in the world, wasted money, of which the person did not have much, would be better used for people in real need. A conciliatory word that would have softened the hardening a little and ended the mutual misunderstanding did not work—a reunion with an old friend from school that kept getting postponed and never happened.
I would like you to please be prepared. One of the two women standing at the same cash register will be taken. Today, an evangelist might say something like this. Of two men who take the same freeway, only one makes it home. From two children sitting in the same desk at school, from two infants in the maternity ward, from two old people in the seniors’ home… The series can easily be continued, not to get scared, but to keep us awake and always sharp and ready. You probably know the wisdom of life: “Live every day as if it were the last of your life.” And let’s not forget: Every day is the first of the rest of your life.
Are you awake
Look at the Advent wreath; only one candle is burning. It is relatively small and may not be visible from further back. But it is enough for her to remind us: “You, too, be ready!” (Mt 24:44) She points to the arrival of the baby Jesus. However, it is just as well an Advent candle in a broader sense: It points to the coming of the Son of Man, as the evangelist Matthew says. And by that, he does not mean the birth of Jesus, but the end of time, the extraordinary meeting of people with God, each individual, humanity, and the entire cosmos. Even if we understand it this way, it is always Advent. I always expect something different than what our life is currently. Are we ready for it? The only constant is change. The first vigil candle on the Advent wreath is a kind of question. He asks, “Are you awake? Are you ready to change your life for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges?”
Ready to adapt
We don’t always get ahead with yesterday’s methods. And we know that too. Quite often, we have experienced with ourselves or others how quickly things are no longer as they were before. Grandfather has become someone who needs constant care and requires intensive care. No, he must not go to the institution. However, the whole day now has to be planned differently. Mother is no longer allowed to be away so often, if only for a short time. A wheelchair ramp will be built outside. The bathroom will be rebuilt. A new bed was needed. Everyone approaches it with admirable patience and helps together. Life is suddenly different. And, thank God, so many people are willing and able to adapt, even radically, when the situation demands it.
Do actions follow intentions?
It is much more problematic when it is not about a specific personal fate but about challenges that concern the community, the nation, or even humanity. Nothing changes that fast, just like this year at the beginning of summer. You may recall the images of the so-called climatic climax near the Baltic Sea coast in Heiligendamm. The federal chancellor and, the American president, and other important heads of state of our time met there. Significant agreements were blindingly signed to prevent even worse consequences for the climate and to limit even worse consequences of the inevitable changes that await us all. However, it mainly concerns people in dry areas and flooded lands. Has anything changed since then? I am afraid that humanity is not in such a condition as to allow everything to be further combed: On the one hand, what is known and what is recognized – and what can be done and is done.
When the flood comes
This means that it is a lengthy process, and there will not suddenly be any new situation to which a person must adapt. It can, therefore, be expressed in the words of the evangelist Matthew – like in the days of Noah. “Just as in the days before the flood, people ate and drank, married and were given in marriage until the day Noah entered the ark, and they did not see anything until the flood came and swept them all away, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Mt 24, 38n) The arrival of the Son of man cannot be equated with the consequences of climate change that we cause, that is, that the earth causes. But both require vigilance. It won’t be just once, as described; it is already like that: People ate, drank, and married. And so it is today: people live, eat and drink, work and marry, listen to music and talk on TV, drive cars, and fly planes, and they don’t know anything or pretend to. When the flood came, it swept everyone away.
Vigil candles on the Advent wreath
Today, however, the first vigilance candle on the Advent wreath burns. Are we awake? Are we ready? Or are we just ordinary people, after all? Which can be raised only by coercive means? Before us – observing according to the sun, according to the position of the earth on its cycle around the sun – are the darkest weeks of the year. But we will light candles, one more each week, to remind us to be attentive to today’s and tomorrow’s demands. Vigilance must be translated into action.