daily biblical sermons


TAKE HEED, WATCH AND PRAY; FOR YOU DO NOT KNOW WHEN THE TIME WILL COME
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Saturday, Last Week of the Year, December 01, 2018
Revelation 22:1-7, Psalm 74, Luke 21:34-36


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

"But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:34-36).


Today is the last day of the last week of the liturgical year, and our attention is once again drawn, both in the readings of the divine office and of the Mass, to the end of the world and to our need to be watchful and vigilant in our way of living so that we are prepared for it. The end of this present world and the glorious return of the Son of man on the clouds of heaven with all his saints in great light is an important part of our Christian faith that should inspire us with the need to be constantly ready for his coming, for we know neither the day nor the hour when he will come. It is during these final days of the liturgical year and during the first part of Advent that we focus on this aspect of our faith.


This is an important part of our faith, but the problem is that so much time has passed since Christ gave us these urgent warnings that many tend to fall asleep and feel too sure that he will not be coming any time soon, and so they forget about it and relax and just enjoy life and live in a relaxed and frivolous way.


But this is not how Christ wants his followers to live. He rather wants us always to live in expectation of his imminent coming. Christ did not tell us when he would come, lest we then not always be expecting him. If he had told us the date of his return, that it would be two thousand plus years from his first coming, all the people throughout history up until now would have dismissed it as of no urgency, since they knew that they would all be long dead before he came, and so this expectation would not have played any effective role in their lives.


But, as we see from Jesus' many warnings, this is not the way he wants his followers to live. He wants us to live as though he were coming any day now. And indeed our personal death could well happen any day. We could easily die in an automobile accident, from sickness, or from a sudden heart attack.


Within such a perspective, living in a state of serious sin is a dreadful thing. We would be in imminent danger of losing our eternal salvation and of going to hell for all eternity.


People who are living in publicly proclaimed, unrepentant adultery, for example, civilly "remarried" to someone who is not their valid wife or husband, and living in an active sexual relationship with them are living in great danger. If they die unrepentant in such a state, which is a grave sin, they could find themselves damned forever in hell.


Not only do such people deprive themselves of the Eucharist, which cannot be received by those living in unrepented mortal sin (1 Corinthians 11:27-30), but they are also in imminent danger of going to hell forever if they should suddenly die or be killed in an accident while they are in such an unrepentant state.


Such people, it seems to me, can hardly enter into the spirit of this beautiful time of year, when we are longing for the return of the Lord in glory, a beautiful theme which will continue through the first half of Advent. Such a theme is meant to call us all to genuine repentance, which means abandoning a life of sin, so that we might be "unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).


So we look to the coming of the Lord and earnestly seek to follow God's moral law in a holy and blameless life. It is precisely this eager expectation for the coming of the Lord Jesus on the clouds of heaven with all his saints in great light that inspires and motivates us to live a moral and holy life in the Lord's service.


It is a serious error to think that we do not need to repent in order to be able to live in a loving relationship with the Lord or to receive the Eucharist, or to enter into heaven with him at death. God will forgive every kind of sin, but only if we repent (which means stop sinning) and put our faith in Christ.


People that believe that God has revealed something new in our own day, namely that repentance is no longer required by God, have gone seriously astray. Those who think that they can now live in a deep, loving relationship with Christ and benefit from regularly receiving Holy Communion and having Christ sacramentally present in their heart without repenting of mortal sin are seriously mistaken. Repentance and faith are as important today as they were in New Testament times, and repentance means "stop sinning." This is the only way to be "unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).


Repentance (stopping sinning) and living a holy life in obedience to God's moral law and commandments are essential to the Christian life. So St. Paul prays for all of us, saying:


"May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).


Not only are we to avoid an openly sinful, unrepentant life, such as unrepentant adulterers live, but we should also avoid a worldly life if we want to enter into the Lord's presence when he comes, as Jesus tells us today:


"Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth" (Luke 21:34-35).


Worldly living drags us down and weighs down our spirit. Watching worldly movies, for example, is of no help to a Christian who wants to live for the Lord in holiness.


So live in eager expectation and preparedness for that day. Live as you would if you knew that the Lord was coming today. Live, as Jesus says, in a constant state of readiness, because


"Of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time will come" (Mark 13:32-33).

 

 

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