First Sunday of Advent
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
What a way to start our season of Advent! These readings begin with the promise of God made to the "house of Israel and Judah", that Jerusalem and Judah will be "safe" and "secure". However, in the gospel passage, Jesus speaks to his disciples of a cosmic catastrophe, felling people from fright alone.
How are they linked? Does God abandon the promises made to a people whose historical memory lives from these promises, this covenant? Does Jesus intend to predict an ultimate catastrophic end to the human experience?
Jesus cannot proclaim anything less than the redemption/salvation that is his Mission. He cannot speak of the mortality of human existence ("what is coming upon the world") without adding, "stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."
This is truly the pattern of a Christian existence. If not even the most global and earth-shaking events can keep us from our Redeemer, then we need to live our lives with that conviction, expressed in the often quoted and powerful words of St. Paul: "nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rm 8:39)."
These readings come to us against the backdrop of world events, global events not unlike those mentioned in the readings. Israel seeks to keep its cities and civilians safe from the incursion of missiles, and Palestinians daily live with embargoes, restricted access to their homes and lands, and threats of war.
Across the middle east and in the heart of Africa, refugees and refugee camps mark the places where war has become a way of life for more than a generation of a people’s memories.
Into this world a child has been born, whose name is "Emmanuel", "God with us." Where has He gone? What difference did His coming make? It is up to His ongoing presence in the world today to answer that question. That "ongoing presence" is in the soul of each baptized person, each one of us who declares that "Jesus is Lord" must provide the answer. During this advent, let us try a little harder to put into practice what is expressed in the second reading: "Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…"
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P., is the director of the Office of Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.