December 2, 2012
First Sunday of Advent
Reading 1 Jer 33:14-16
Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
R. (1b) To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Reading 2 1 Thes 3:12-4:2
Gospel Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
Jesus said to his disciples:
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
"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."
A burglar broke into a house one night. He shined his flashlight around, looking for valuables, and when he picked up a iPad to place in his pack, a strange, disembodied voice echoed from the dark saying, "Jesus is coming soon." He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight out, and froze. When he heard nothing more after a bit, he shook his head, promised himself a vacation after the next big score, then clicked the light on and began searching for more valuables. Just as he pulled the Plasma TV out so he could disconnect the wires, clear as a bell he heard, "Jesus is coming soon." Freaked out, he shone his light around frantically, looking for the source of the voice. Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot. "Did you say that?", he hissed at the parrot. "Yep," the parrot confessed, then squawked, "I'm just trying to warn you." The burglar relaxed. "Warn me, huh? Who in the world are you?" "Moses," replied the bird. "Moses?" the burglar laughed. "What kind of people would name a bird Moses?" "The kind of people that would name that Rottweiller Jesus."
The Church joins Moses the parrot in saying, as we begin another season of Advent, “Jesus is coming soon,” or at least our celebration of his coming at Christmas. And the Church has chosen some scripture readings not far from the ominous tone of the parrot. "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
Why choose such a frankly disturbing message to usher in this Advent season of preparing to celebrate at Christmas the coming of the Lord, God with us, the Prince of Peace? For this scene describes nothing less than “disaster,” literally the falling of the stars from the sky—disaster. The book of Genesis speaks of God creating order out of chaos. However, in this description of the end of creation, chaos seems to be reemerging from order: Scary signs in the sun, moon, and stars; Nations in political dismay and confusion. People overcome with fear, even to death. The heavens and earth shaken and fallen to pieces.
This language, so called “apocalyptic” language, evokes death—when all creation comes crashing down. In the face of this, we are to realize a deep and liberating truth—nothing HERE BELOW lasts. Therefore, we must not expect to find our ultimate fulfillment in anything thing or any individual. If we want ultimate satisfaction, we’ll have to look HIGHER.
Here, the scriptures indeed lift our gaze higher: “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” This scriptural mediation on the end of things moves us to lift our hearts and spiritual eyes to the coming of the Lord, in whose hands are all of creation and who will never pass way. Thus, the Church with this gospel passage directs our focus not to the passing things of this world, but to the One in which we can place our ultimate hope: a lasting, enduring hope that the Light of the World, the prince of peace, Christ, has brought definitively to the world.
What exactly is Advent? It is the “coming of the Lord” Some might suggest that Advent somehow means “waiting.” But the Latin root of the word “Advent” makes it clear that this is not the primary sense of Advent. If this were the case, Advent would actually be called “Mans,” from the Latin word mansus, “waiting.”
No, it is Advent, from the latin “adventus,” coming. So, what is Advent, and who is coming? Our annual preparation for the celebration of the truth that Jesus, God has come and is coming.
We prepare during the next weeks by remembering that the Lord is the Lord alone, while the things of creation will ultimately pass away and thus are not worthy of our ultimate trust.
We renounce creation’s pretenders to our ultimate hope and place our trust squarely on the One who comes that we might know life in its fullness, now and for eternity—Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world.