First Sunday of Advent December 1 & 2, 2018
Reading 1 JER 33:14-16
Responsorial Psalm PS 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
- (1b) To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Reading 2 1 THES 3:12—4:2
Alleluia PS 85:8
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Show us, Lord, your love;
and grant us your salvation.
Gospel LK 21:25-28, 34-36
A new liturgical year begins today, and with it a new set of Sunday readings which is considered Year C. With only a few exceptions, this year’s Gospel readings will come from the Gospel of Luke. A very early Christian tradition held that the author was the physician and travel companion that Paul mentions in several letters. Writing around the year AD. 80, Luke gave an account of two significant events—the destruction of Jerusalem and the rapid spread of belief in Christ.
This portion of Luke’s Gospel is part of a larger apocalyptic discourse. The focus is on eschatology, the end of the world as we now experience it and the beginning of a new world. I took a class on eschatology when I was in seminary at St. Paul, Minnesota. In fact I will always remember being called out of that class in that Monday morning of September 23, 1973 and being told by Msgr. Sweeney that my Dad had died. He was 54 and dying of cancer. I had seen him the day before but we did not expect his death that quickly. My world changed as Mom and my youngest brother and sister moved off of the farm and my brother and his bride of four months moved on to the farm. I was saddened by the death of my father but appreciated knowing that the farm would stay in the family. I am reminded of how our celebrations as a family changed and I am thinking of the challenge of many parishioners who have lost loved ones in this life, especially those who will be celebrating Christmas this year for the first time without a husband or wife or child or parent.
Preceding this week’s gospel is the prediction of the fall of Jerusalem (21:20-24), an event that had occurred about 10 to 20 years prior to the writing of the Gospel. What the Gospel writer relates in this earlier passage are the events that happened somewhere around 66-70 C.E. when the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. The passage in the Gospel is written, however, in a way that makes both events seem as if they have not happened yet when in reality, the writer of Luke is writing the gospel in hindsight.
If you want to know how the Jewish people felt about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Roman general Titus around A.D. 70 imagine the destruction of the New York Stock Exchange, the United States Capitol including the White House, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica on the same day. It was a powerful event indeed.
Just as Jesus was talking in today’s gospel to his disciples He is also talking to us when he says “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.” Just last week I celebrated a funeral of a 70 year old who died from a blood clot in his lung and a 50 year old who died from a fall from a ladder. Just this week a 30 year old died as he was pushing a car off of the highway 20 bridge to East Dubuque when another car drove into him. Just today/yesterday I heard about the 7.2 earthquake just north of Anchorage, Alaska and the 40 seconds of shaking of buildings and the destruction of roads and bridges and many aftershocks including one that was 5.7. Or the surprising destruction of recent wild fires in Paradise, California that struck with sudden fury. It is important that we are always in a good relationship with the Lord. Every day we get closer to the end of the world and to our own end.
Advent is a season of preparation. We prepare our hearts and homes to celebrate the feast of Christmas. We prepare spiritually to greet Christ when he comes again. And we also look to how we can prepare our world to become more and more like the kingdom of God where love and justice rule. Advent is a time when we live this preparation in an intentional manner, but waiting and preparing are constant hallmarks of the Christian life. The reign of God is at hand now, and we have no other choice but to hasten its coming by working for justice throughout our world.
A couple of questions for you to ponder.
Do the satisfactions of your life blind you to grace?
What would you have to leave behind to enjoy the freedom of God’s kingdom?