Story of man seeking wisdom for his life – “stay on the balls of your feet, not your heels”. This is especially excellent wisdom for us during this Advent season. For, as Jesus reminds us in our gospel today: ”therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour”. We have been told not to seek to know the actual date when this second coming of Jesus will take place. No one knows when this will be, says Jesus, in the gospels, and elsewhere, not even He himself, only his heavenly Father. (Acts 1:6). But we are meant to be always in readiness for that event, which can happen at any moment in history. If there is one sure thing I can predict about that moment, however, is that the vast majority of the world will not be in readiness for it. Jesus reminds his disciples in our gospel today that his second coming will find people doing what they did in Noah’s time, just before the flood came and swept them all away. “As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.“
Historically, we know that in A.D. 70, following a revolt in and around Jerusalem by the Jews seeking to drive their Roman occupiers out of their country, the Romans marched on the city , destroyed the Jews’ beloved Temple and went on a murderous rampage throughout the city. Many, many Jews were killed at that time, but no one who had become a disciple of Jesus. Why? Because , before this passage that we have in our gospel today, Jesus had warned them what was going to happen with great accuracy, and his disciples believed him, but the rest of the Jews did not. So the disciples fled into the mountains before the sack of Jerusalem and were safe, whereas the greater majority of their fellow countrymen were caught absolutely unprepared for Roman retribution and suffered terribly.
This is the wisdom of “staying on the balls of your feet”, brothers and sisters. It is not so much a matter of the posture of the body, rather it is a matter of the posture of one’s heart, mind and spirit. If we are daily seeking to remain in relationship with the Lord Jesus through prayer and reading of the Scriptures, we will develop a sensitivity to his Spirit and be guided in all our decisions and choices . We will be like those sheep that Jesus refers to in John’s gospel, who “know the voice of the shepherd calling them by name and follow him closely” (John 10: 3 – 5) . By cultivating our relationship with Jesus, our good Shepherd, we will be able to distinguish his voice from all others, especially the voice of the great deceiver, the devil, and we will be able to avoid being led by him into disaster.
With such a “resting on the balls of the feet” attitude, we can enjoy all the festivities of the Christmas season, celebrating the coming of Jesus into our world to save us from our sins and lead us to heaven. But all the time, we never let ourselves forget that this same Jesus ,who died and rose from the dead , and ascended back into heaven, will be returning at some unspecified time in history and will expect us to be in a state of readiness for his return. ”When the Son of Man comes , will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) .Good question, very, very good question. Look around you, brothers and sisters, at the world today? Do you see a lot of faith about, faith in Jesus Christ, I mean, especially in the West? Or do you see a concerted effort to remove the name of Christ from the world stage? Why do we see everywhere we go the words “Merry Christmas” – Merry Christ-mas – replaced by the words “Happy Holidays” ? Why will there be fewer and fewer Nativity plays in schools, even Christian schools? Why fewer and fewer “religious” Christmas cards? How many people will be attending church services at this time, and, if they do, it is only out of reasons of sentimentality and nostalgia, not because they understand that the keeping the memory and reality of Christ’s first coming alive is of crucial, vital importance, not just for Christians, but for the whole of the human race. Who do you think is behind all these attempts to “take Christ out of Christmas”, to make us forget that “Jesus is the reason for the season?” Only by being remindful of Christ’s first coming will we be ready for his second coming and making sure we are living “on the balls of our feet”.
To have a “living on the balls of our feet” attitude is to have true wisdom, God’s wisdom, not human “wisdom”. The former introduces us into the “God realm”, the “Big Picture”, shows us how God sees what is unfolding on the world stage. The latter attitude ensnares us in the prevailing cultural ideology, which is myopic, self-centered, limited, confused and confusing. To live by faith in God’s wisdom is to ensure we have clear values and principles to guide our lives, which will often run counter with those of today’s world, but which will make us beacons of light and hope to others, as our world unravels more and more, as more and more it seeks to distance itself from God and His Messiah, Jesus the Christ.
To “live on the balls of our feet” spiritually, means to follow the teaching of St Paul in our second reading, to be aware that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” and to “lay aside the works of darkness”, i.e. of sin and complacency, spiritual slumbering. It means to put on the armor of light and live honorably, not in reveling and drunkenness, debauchery and licentiousness, in quarrelling and jealousy” An attitude of continued repentance and conversion is an Advent attitude, a “living on the balls of the feet” attitude. When was the last time you went to confession, brothers and sisters? Is that because we are already perfect, or that we forget that Jesus is coming to judge the living and the dead, as our Creeds remind us.
Well, this is the Church’s New Year, as I said at the beginning of Mass. How about adopting a spiritual New Year resolution, and seek to live this year ahead “on the balls of your feet?”