A reflection by Fr. David Warren, S.F.M. on the First Sunday of Advent: Jeremiah 33.14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3.12-4.2; Luke 21.25-28, 34-36.
The Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act came into effect on September 1. Under this new legislation, those who are convicted of distracted driving will face a fine of at least $490 and the loss of three demerit points.
In 2014, 73 people died in Ontario in accidents related to distracted driving. This is according to the Ontario Provincial Police. If the trend continues, deaths from distracted driving will exceed deaths related to drinking and driving in 2016.
We can do two things at once. But we can’t do two things well at once. We hear a lot these days about multitasking, but studies have shown that the human mind has a limited capacity for attention.
Distraction can kill us.
On this First Sunday of Advent, Jesus warns us against the danger of distraction: “Be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).
Some years ago, I was driving along Kingston Road when I noticed a bumper sticker on the car ahead of me. The sticker read “Jesus is coming! Look busy!”
Busy is exactly what Jesus does not want us to be.
When we are busy, we are not mindful. When we are busy, we forget what time it is. Jesus wants us to be mindful. He wants us to be always mindful of what time it is.
We know the hour, the minute, and the second. But do we know what time it is?
The season of Advent reminds us of what time it is: it is the time of the Kingdom of God. It is the end-time. It is the final age of human history. The final age has arrived with the death and resurrection of Jesus. All that remains is for Jesus to return in glory and for the Reign of God to be made manifest.
And so, when will Jesus return and when will the Reign of God be made manifest? The question is irrelevant. It’s irrelevant because it’s a question about a number: how many more years?
In the days before I had my own watch, I would ask people, “What time is it?” Sometimes I would get the smart response “It’s time for you to get a watch!” I was asking a question about the number of the hour; I received an answer about the call of the hour.
Advent is not about the number of the hour; advent is about the call of the hour.
The call of the hour is to enter the Kingdom of God. The call of the hour is to make a decision for God, here and now. Life is a limited-time offer and so is the Kingdom of God. When it’s over, it’s over.
Does God’s Kingdom define my life? Does it define how I spend my time? Does the Kingdom inform the choices I make? What defines my life, anyway?
Is my life on track for the Kingdom? Do I live now the things that are going to matter for eternity, such as love and mercy?
Pope Francis has announced a Year of Mercy which will begin on December 8 and extend to November 20, 2016. The Pope has chosen to open the Year of Mercy on December 8 because December 8 will be the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. The Second Vatican Council marked a new attitude of the Roman Catholic Church toward the world, a more sympathetic and less judgmental attitude towards the world.
In announcing the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis calls us to listen to the voice of “those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates.”
Advent is a time for mercy.
Advent presents us with both an opportunity and a danger. The opportunity is to be part of the Kingdom of God that God is creating. The danger is that we will miss out on it.
Distracted driving is dangerous to our health. So is distracted living.