Isaiah 2: 1-5; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44
Coming like a thief in the night. It sounds like a rather odd way of describing the return of the Son of Man, coming like a thief. Just a few months before I arrived here, I had the experience of being robbed and house broken into while I was out celebrating Mass on Easter Sunday. Needless to say, living alone, it was quite terrifying when I returned to my house to find everything turned upside down. If you’ve ever had that experience you know you feel angry. You feel violated in a deep way; all that you thought was yours and protected so quickly taken away without any notice. Talk about being thrown off balance!
It makes it even stranger that Jesus would use that image as Paul does at times of the Son of Man coming like a thief in the night. I know my immediate reaction to it all was to live in fear. What did I need to do to further protect myself from such vulnerability? I can put in a security system, build walls and fences, place deadbolts on the doors and stand with a shotgun ready to go at a moments notice. That’s how you feel when the thief comes in the night, despite the fact that we know if someone wants to break in, their going to do it and nothing is going to stop them. The same is true for the Son of Man breaking into history and into our lives.
We do the same to our hearts and souls. When we are hurt or violated in different ways, our immediate reaction is to respond with fear. We build walls, put in alarm systems, stand at the door waiting to attack whoever tries to cross that line and violate us again. The thief in the night, in that regards is a great image to reflect upon during this season. When the Son of Man plants the desire to break in, or out for that matter, there’s going to be no stopping the breaking in and it’s going to feel like we are losing something, that someone is taking things we possess and hold onto, precisely the way it is for us. But what Christ wants to break through is the life we have created for ourselves out of that pain and fear, breaking down the walls that we cling to, the fear and anger that can overtake us. We think that’s who we are, but Christ wants to show otherwise.
We will hear another way to to preparing ourselves other than walls, fences, locks, and shotguns. Isaiah envisions a world beyond such violence. Isaiah will show us these weeks of a God breaking into humanity to show a better world for God’s people. In order for us to seek such vision in our lives it needs a God that can break into our homes, tearing down the walls we have created and freeing of us that has allowed us to live in this slumber. So much of that was the expectation of the new world order, one of guns and war that would bring about peace, an expectation that is never met and one the Son of Man would not fulfill. The message over and over again will be to stay awake, awake from sleep for salvation is at hand; something new is taking shape, beyond any expectation we may have. God wants to do something in our lives, not a few weeks from now, when we believe all the preparations will be done; God wants to do something in our lives today, now, in this moment.
Paul reminds the Romans to come out of their own darkness; again, the day has come and salvation is upon us. The Romans were more infatuated with living life in the dark and the activities that ensued. In order for Christ to break in, the Romans were going to need to invite God into the darkness of their lives. Paul knew that through his own experience, allowing himself to be vulnerable before the Lord. We will all experience that vulnerability as these weeks go by. We will be stressed and feeling anxious knowing all that needs to be done by Christmas. We will spend countless hours seeking out the right gift and building expectations that we know will never suffice the desire of our hearts. You know what, that’s exactly where God wants to break into the house of our hearts and souls, to help us discern the light and dark of our lives and seek out that greater light rather than living in fear.
God wants to do something in our lives right now and we live with the groaning within of the breaking in and the life that will follow. How are we preparing our hearts and souls these weeks and for the end of our lives, for we do not know the day nor the hour when that break-in will occur…with walls, locks, and shotguns; or are we opening the doors and windows to allow the Son of Man into our vulnerability, maybe allowing ourselves to feel as if we are being robbed of something, because we are, of the life we’ve created, but at the same time allowing life to take shape through the Christ within, waiting to be set free, creating a world of peace, love, and hope.