In this reading from Luke 21: 34-36, as we end one liturgical year and prepare for Advent, we are traditionally warned to be ready to for the end times. Be vigilant. Do not be caught asleep. But there is another message, too.
Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said:
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Some of us become drowsy from thinking we are too well prepared. That we live righteously and are without sin and will enter heaven without blemish and without harm. Or we are so anxious over the tribulations of daily life that we forget our humanity, the humanity that Jesus commands us to recall. Or we assume that as Catholics or Protestants that we will be immune to the tribulations to come and so we poke and tease others as though they will suffer alone.
“That day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth,” says Jesus. “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
If you have observed the letter of the law yet have not served others as Jesus has taught us, you are not ready to stand before the Son of Man. If you have cared more for your own concerns than for the needs of others, how can you say you have loved your neighbor as yourself? If you have judged your own sins differently than you have judged those of others, even though they are the same, how can you look yourself in the mirror and expect to enter God’s kingdom?
If you have not loved your fellow human, then you have not loved your God, in whose image he and she was created. You have been drowsy and drunken and you are unprepared.