The readings for this First Sunday of Advent could be compared to the warnings that were given to the East coast about Hurricane Sandy some weeks ago. Most folks prudently evacuated. Schools, businesses and transportation systems closed. Some did choose to stay and ride out the storm because they didn’t believe it would be as bad as predicted.
Jesus is not urging us to flee. He’s advising us to be alert and to stand firm, because despite wars, earthquakes and disasters of all kinds, this world still belongs to God. God still holds history in His hands, broken though it often is. And what’s more, all appearances to the contrary, the whole thing is heading the right direction.
If the news headlines are your only input into the state of the world, you will almost certainly despair at times. You’ll pour another cocktail, throw up your hands, sit in some corner of your den and watch the TV’s steady delivery of violence, war, natural disaster and societal dysfunction. You’ll find it easy to conclude that the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket. So long as you think that the shape of the future is up to human beings alone, there will be no end to the excuses you could find to crumple up into a little ball of utter hopelessness.
Jesus says don’t do that. Don’t think it’s up to you or any government anywhere on earth. What secures the future, what gives us a future despite the multiple threats to our existence that surround us is no less than the promises of God that in the end, good wins. If you become too wrapped up in how bad things are, then you will miss the coming of the Lord into your everyday life. Those are the large and small comings that will give you hope. Through His death, Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus won a cosmic victory over evil that will never be undone.
It’s all too easy to read those Gospel passages about the world’s end and completely misinterpret them. Look at it this way: at the end of this particular chapter in His Gospel, Luke says that the crowd kept coming back day after day to listen to Jesus. If he had been a doom-and-gloom naysayer or fear-monger, wouldn’t the people have stayed away? It was Jesus’ confident hope of glory that drew them in.
Hopefully that will be the case for us. May this Advent find us waiting for a new beginning rather than an ending!
Be God’s smile for someone today!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.