Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Matthew (24: 42-51) in which Jesus tells his disciples to ‘stay awake’ and to ‘stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’.

Fr Paul says Matthew is approaching the end of the fifth and last of his great discourses on the Kingdom of Heaven; this one being on the future of the Church. The keynote, which opens today’s Gospel, is ‘Stay awake’ or ‘Be alert’ – but alert to what?

It is clear in the letters of Paul, that the first generation of Christians thought that the coming of the Lord was imminent and that something would happen soon that would bring an end to the world as they knew it.

But, Fr Paul notes, as time passed and this coming did not happen, the feeling of expectancy began to peter out. So, we are reminded today that human and divine timescales are very different. They are not the same.

With the Death and Resurrection of Christ the world did change forever: the triumph of Evil has passed, and triumph of hope has been born. But in another sense the coming of the Lord is imminent.

As the Gospel tells us, we do not know the day or the hour of our death, when our world will change so, Fr Paul reminds us, we cannot and must not neglect the warning of today’s gospel, ‘Be alert!’