There always seem to be some groups who attempt to predict the date the end of the world will come. The Jehovah's Witnesses are up to about their fourteenth or fifteenth try. Some thought that it was going to be New Year's Day, 2001, at the start of the new Millennium. Others looked at the Y2K bug as a portent of the end of civilization as we know it. Now, groups are saying that an ancient Aztec calendar ends in the year 2012, a prediction of the world ending during that year.
As Christians, we would be well advised to not listen to these “prophetic” groups. St. Peter in our second reading tells us that we don't know when Our Lord will return. Instead, he compares the Second Coming of Jesus to a “thief in the night.” As anyone who has had their house or car broken into knows, it's impossible to predict when a thief will decide that your property needs to become his. If we knew, we would take steps to stop him before he could even make the attempt. Because we don't know, we make preparations to prevent anyone from even thinking about trying. We make sure that our doors are locked and windows are secured. We make sure that our house and cars have alarms which will scare the thief away if he does attempt to break in. In short, we do everything we can to secure our possessions and prepare for the thief's arrival. As Christians, we must likewise prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ, even if we don't know when he'll return.
To help us understand the necessity of preparing for the coming of the Lord, we are given the example of John the Baptist. John knew that Our Lord was coming, even before his birth, as we see when Our Lady went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. He also knew that he was called by God to be the precursor to Jesus' ministry. Much as an introductory speaker gets the audience ready for a major speaker, John was sent to prepare those who were under the Old Covenant for the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant. St. Mark tells us in his Gospel that John fulfills the promise of the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading, that one will be sent to “prepare the way of the Lord”. John realized that this was his role, and he fulfilled it, even pointing his disciples to the Lord. We still use his words today in the Mass: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
Like John the Baptist, we are also called to be precursors to Christ. Instead of proclaiming his imminent arrival, as John the Baptist did, we are called to proclaim to the world the Second Coming of Our Lord, in which he will “judge the living and the dead”, as we say in the Creed. Our role is different than John the Baptist's, as we can also proclaim what Jesus has done, both 2,000 years ago when he lived on Earth, and in our lives today. Not only can we testify on what He has done for us as individuals, we can also share the Gospel which he proclaimed, the Good News of salvation, freely offered to all.
As John the Baptist was sent to prepare the Jewish people under the Old Covenant for the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant, our proclamation of Jesus' Gospel must prepare the whole world for Our Lord's return. We are called to convert the whole world to Christ, but we must do it with true love and respect of all humanity. Force and intimidation is out, we can't bribe people to become Christian, but must evangelize by our way of life. We must strive to live as Christ lived. We have to be willing to give totally of ourselves, our time, our skills, our possessions, even our very lives, for others. Instead of merely giving lip service to our faith, we must live what we believe. We must allow our actions to speak louder than words.
As we continue in this time of Advent preparations, getting ready for the celebration of Our Lord's birth on Christmas Day, may we prepare not only for the earthly celebrations that surround Christmas, but also for the Heavenly celebrations in the world to come.