In a Dark Hour
Matthew 24:37-44 (see also "The Gospel of Fulfillment")
Jesus exaggerates in today's Gospel when He claims not to know the day or the hour when He will come again.
He occasionally makes such overstatements to drive home a point we might otherwise miss (see Matthew 5:34; 23:9; Luke 14:26).
His point here is that the exact "hour" is not important. What is crucial is that we not postpone our repentance, that we be ready for Him - spiritually and morally - when He comes. For He will surely come, He tells us - like a thief in the night, like the flood in the time of Noah.
In today's Epistle, Paul too compares the present age to a time of advancing darkness and night.
Though we sit in the darkness, overshadowed by death, we have seen arise the great light of our Lord who has come into our midst (see Matthew 4:16; John 1:9; 8:12). He is the true light, the life of the world. And His light continues to shine in His Church, the new Jerusalem promised by Isaiah in today's First Reading.
In the Church, all nations stream to the God of Jacob, to worship and seek wisdom in the House of David. From the Church goes forth His word of instruction, the light of the Lord - that all might walk in His paths toward that eternal day when night will be no more (see Revelation 22:5).
By our Baptism we have been made children of the light and day (see Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-7). It is time we start living like it - throwing off the fruitless works of darkness, the desires of the flesh, and walking by the light of His grace.
The hour is late as we begin a new Advent. Let us begin again in this Eucharist.
As we sing in today's Psalm, let us go rejoicing to the House of the Lord. Let us give thanks to His name, keeping watch for His coming, knowing that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
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The Gospel of 'Fulfillment'
With the First Sunday in Advent we begin a new "cycle" (Cycle A) of the Church's Liturgical Year. Sunday by Sunday for the next year we'll be reading the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew's Gospel is a prime example of what St. Augustine was talking about when he said: the New Testament is concealed in the Old and the Old Testament is revealed in the New.
You can't read Matthew without having your ear tuned to the Old Testament. He quotes or alludes to the Old Testament an average of four or five times per chapter - or more than 100 times in his Gospel.
Matthew writes this way because he wants his fellow Israelites to see that their Old Covenant with God has been "fulfilled" in Jesus. Get used to words like "fulfill" and "fulfillment" - you're going to hear them repeatedly in Matthew's gospel.
On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, for instance, Matthew explains how Mary is found with child: "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Behold the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel" (see Matthew 1:22-23).
Again, on Palm Sunday, when He is arrested in the garden, Jesus says: "All this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled" (see Matthew 26:54,56).
The numerous "fulfillments" Matthew tells us about are intended to signal one thing - that in Jesus, God is finally delivering on the promises He made throughout salvation history.