Reflecting on Matthew for the First Sunday of Advent

From The Gospel of Matthew, by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on Matthew 24:37-44

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Jesus says that “no one knows” the day of his glorious return. It is enough for us to know that his coming is certain, even if we cannot mark it on the calendar. Of course, from time to time we hear of people who claim to know when the Second Coming will occur, as if somehow they’ve been privileged to pry into the mind of God and discover the undiscoverable. Apart from the impossibility of penetrating a mystery kept secret by God, these misguided efforts miss the whole point of what is revealed for us to know.

Instead of trying to predict the future, Jesus wants us to prepare for it. The former is a waste of time; the latter is an exercise of wisdom that every disciple should take to heart. The Lord is calling each of us to a state of readiness. Had he revealed the timing of his return, we would surely become complacent in serving God, in ministering to the needs of others, and in making continued efforts at repentance. Christians must keep awake, spiritually speaking, if they are to secure their inheritance as sons and daughters of God (24:13). The sober reality is that Jesus’ coming “could be accomplished at any moment” (Catechism 673).

In addition to readiness, Jesus also promotes courage. Knowing that the present world of corruption will pass away is encouragement for disciples to remain loyal in the face of opposition. The Lord has not concealed from us that evil will lash out against believers. Scenes of suffering and upheaval cast a cold shadow over much of this discourse. Yet the Lord’s definitive triumph is assured. For the wicked forces arrayed against him, this will mean judgment. But for the suffering Church on earth, persecution will give way to ultimate joy.

© 2010 Curtis Mitch, Edward Sri, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.