By the time you have this bulletin in your hand, Pope Francis will have wound up his six-day extended visit to two tiny South Asian countries, viz., Myanmar and Bangladesh – the former predominantly a Buddhist nation and the latter, likewise, an Islamic country. As I write this, the Holy Father has completed two days in Myanmar and has just delivered his keynote address to the nation. Against the backdrop of the country being accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims and in the wake of the continued civil conflict, the whole world was keenly waiting to hear what he would say.
As expected, in his inimitable style, the Pope implored that healing of wounds to be the paramount political and spiritual priority. He talked about building a just, reconciled and an inclusive social order. “The religions can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in the years of conflict. Drawing on deeply-held values, they can help to uproot the causes of conflict, build bridges of dialogue, seek justice and be a prophetic voice for all who suffer”, the Pontiff said. He did not forget to include his often repeated words: “A culture of encounter and solidarity.”
Can we, as individuals, families and a faith community, consider it as being addressed to us as well? In a world divided by discord and divisions, separated by narrow walls of ethnocentrism and other narrow domestic walls, can there be a better response to the gospel reading for this first Sunday of Advent than the one Pope Francis has suggested? In today’s gospel, Jesus commands us to be alert and be ready.
“So stay awake, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house comes.” Jesus is not referring to his return to an unspecified distant future, but his constant renewing presence in the world. “The master of the house” is Jesus, but not gone. He only changed his way of being present among his own. Our task, as disciples, is to make is presence alive in our midst. That’s how we make Christmas keep happening. So we are not merely asked to look further into future but farther onto the road to see his coming.
We keep awake and make the Lord’s coming constant and anew by mending our evil ways, repairing broken relationships, healing wounds, encountering in solidarity, helping those in need and doing our religious duties. We get ready best by always looking for Christ’s coming, not only at the end of time but in our everyday lives. If we’re ready for him now, we’ll be ready for him later.