The question of the return of the Lord has held the attention of believers from the beginning of the Church. As a response to it, Christians have adopted different attitudes; the two major are: being idle (unruly) while waiting for the imminent return of the Lord, and secondly, living under constant fear of the unknown. With regards to the first attitude, Saint Paul is very clear in his exhortation to the Thessalonians who thought that there was no reason either to work or even to proclaim the gospel because of the Lord’s imminent return. Says Paul, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat. We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat“ (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The second attitude is the one that makes us live under constant fear of the return of the Lord.
Today’s readings give us another understanding of the matter. While the two examples in the gospel set in front of us the idea of possibility or probability with the return of the master of the house and the thief, Jesus’ return is an assurance, because for him the question is not about if he will come but when he will come. That is the reason we are called to be alert not under fear of uncertainty but in the grace of the Lord that enables us to remain vigilant and alert.
The people of Thessalonica were waiting for the return of the Lord. For them, there was nothing to do because they would share in eternal life. Salvation for them was something they understood as totally granted. They took it for granted because they could not imagine any of them being left. This same line of thought is the one that characterizes our common mentality, habit, and culture today. We have bought into the notion that we are all getting to heaven in the end anyway, no matter how bad we have been. Once we accept such line of thought, we let the devil win because we will no longer worry about things such as prayer, obeying the commandments and living a morally good life. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells us that heaven is not something we should take for granted. It is not automatic. Rather, heaven is something we have to work for and be prepared for. And because we do not know when the end will come for any one of us, we have to always be watching; meaning that we ought to keep ourselves in right relation with God, using self-discipline to avoid laziness in our service of the Lord. This is where faith comes to the play.
As a matter of fact, faith is the key to our process of being prepared. However, as we hear from the second reading, faith is not just to claim that we believe, or I believe. Like Abraham, our faith should make us respond with obedience to God’s call for action. Jesus is crystal clear on this matter. He says, “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21-23). Faith should always lead us to action. This is the challenge we are called to face as we strive to keep watch and remain alert, as we wait for the return of the Lord.
And let us continue to pray for one another and for our parish family.