First Advent – a final admonition

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In the posts this week we have looked  at the gospel in context and in detail. The reading ends with a final admonishment

34 “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 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 36 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.”

After describing the days of the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus warns his followers that proper conduct is always expected – not just carousing and drunkenness (and such things) but even preoccupation with the anxieties represented by the “thorns” in the parable of the sower (8:14). These pressures of daily life lull people into false security. The exhortation to watch and pray foreshadows the same appeal during Jesus’ agony in the garden (22:46).

Luke composes an exhortation that emphasizes watchfulness and prayer and that warns against drunkenness and dissipation. The unit begins with a warning (v. 34) that is then related to the eschatological events that have just been forecast. Verse 35 supplies a rationale for the warning, and v. 36 offers both a general exhortation (“Be vigilant”) and a specific one (“pray”). Jesus has warned the disciples to be on their guard on three other occasions (12:1; 17:3; 20:46)

The closing verse (36) provides an apt conclusion for the eschatological discourse by enjoining the disciples to pray at all times so that they might have the strength to escape “all these things,” a phrase that evokes the opening question of the discourse, “What will be the sign that this [lit. “these things”] is about to take place?” (21:7) and v. 12, “Before all this occurs.…” By the end of the discourse, “all these things” includes the errors of the false prophets (vv. 8–11), the persecution and trials the disciples will experience (vv. 12–19), the terrors of the destruction of Jerusalem (vv. 20–24), and the cataclysm of the coming of the Son of Man (vv. 25–28). The only way to escape these events and be ready to stand before the Son of Man (cf. vv. 27, 36) is to be strengthened by constant prayer.

Always good advice!

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