Today, the First Sunday of Advent, is the only Sunday in Advent when we will hear the voice of Jesus (Matthew 24:37-44). St. John the Baptist will be talking the next two weekends and Matthew will do a narration for the Fourth Sunday.
When we hear the voice of Jesus today, it is not a pleasant Christmas carol kind of greeting. It is urgent and demanding. He tells us to “Stay awake!” Jesus says, “If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake.” You must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Twice in the Book of Revelation, God says: “I will come like a thief.” This rude biblical figure of speech should stop us in out tracks. God is being spoken of as a thief. Isn’t our God the Good Shepherd? How can God be talked about as a thief? We hate thieves!
If you ever had your home broken into, you feel violated. You no longer feel safe. An intruder goes after your most valuable possessions. Is that what God is like? God – a thief in the night! There it is in sacred scripture, pure and simple. So we need to come to terms with the image. So how is God like a thief?
A thief who is worth his salt will circumvent our elaborate security systems. And that is what God does. God breaks through our false illusions. And we certainly have false illusions. Somehow we think and we live like our house, our money, our car and our possessions will last forever.
Another false illusion we have is that we are the center of the universe. In fact, the greatest spiritual truth to be learned is realizing that our lives are not our own. We overeat and then we spend big bucks to take the weight off. Meanwhile, a billion people on our planet are starving. We live very materialistic lifestyles, thinking that the price of our homes will only go up as will the stock market.
We act as if our possessions and our money are our lifelines. But all lifelines have two ends. We may grasp and pull at one end, but how secure is the other end?
God the thief steals our sense of security by showing us that the other end of our materialistic lifeline is straw. The housing market and the stock market collapse, our health goes downhill, our good looks fade and we do drop when we shop!
Our one-dimensional items are snatched away and we feel like we’ve been robbed. And we have been robbed. This theft should leave us asking – Is what really matters what is important in life?
The thievery of natural disasters – hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes and floods provide us with the answers we are looking for. If we really listen and hear what the survivors are saying: “At least we still are alive and at least we have one another,” we will discover our answer.
God the thief steals our false sense of security so we can anchor our lives on the only thing that is necessary in life – the love of God and the love of our neighbor.
Like all thieves, God comes unannounced. A friend of mine just returned from the funeral of his niece in Ohio. His niece was a delightful person, 24 years old. She woke up one morning, got dressed for work, sat down for a cup of coffee and fell over dead from an aneurism. Her family and friends kept talking about a life that was snatched away so early. They were all wondering – What really matters in life? A God Flash
There is no surprise. God is out to steal. God is out to steal our hearts. God offers us real joy and lasting happiness. God does not offer us a life that is free from pain and hurt. God asks us to lose our life in order to find it.
One day God and a man were walking down the road. The man asks God: “What is the world really like?” God replies, “I cannot talk when I’m thirsty. If you could please get me a drink of cool water, we could discuss what the world is really like. There’s a town nearby. Please go and get me a drink.”
So the man goes into the town that is nearby. He knocks on the door of the first house. A lovely young woman opens the door. His jaw drops, but he manages to say, “I need a glass of cold water.” “Of course,” she says smiling. “But it is mid-day, would you care to stay for some food?”
“I am hungry,” he says, looking over his shoulder. “Your offer of food is a great kindness.” He goes in and the door closes behind him. Thirty years go by. The man who wanted to know what the world was really like and the woman who offered him food fell in love and got married. They raised five children. He is a respected businessman and she is an honored member of the community.
One day a Category Four hurricane comes in off the ocean and it threatens their lives and all their possessions. The man cries out, “Help me, dear God, help me!!” A voice from the midst of the hurricane says, “Where’s my cup of cold water!!”
This Advent, will you give God his cup of cold water that God has asked you for?