- Jeremiah 33:14-16
- Psalm 25:1-9
- 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
- Luke 21:25-36
As we begin a new Church Year, preparations to celebrate the first Advent of Christ in history are balanced with anticipation of his second Advent in the unknown future. In Year C, this First Sunday of Advent presents us with contrasting images: predictions of cosmic destruction balanced with corresponding words of hope. Jesus told of the signs of his coming again with power and great glory, and said that when these things begin to happen, people will know that the kingdom of God is near. The whole earth, in earthquake and other natural phenomena, will proclaim the great day.
For those who are still living amidst the destruction of Hurricane Sandy or the conflicts in the Middle East (or any place in the world were destruction, mayhem and uncertainty exists), today’s readings can be either frightening reminders or words of hope.
Perhaps poetry best describes this mystery:
The spirit is breathing. All those with eyes to see, women and men with ears for hearing detect a coming dawn; a reason to go on. They seem small, these signs of dawn, perhaps ridiculous. All those with eyes to see, women and men with ears for hearing uncover in the night a certain gleam of light; they see the reason to go on. Dom Helder Camara (It's Midnight Lord, 1984: Pastoral Press)
God’s day is coming when all the world will know the power and authority of God. Such are the words of the end-times. And for those in our world who follow the Mayan predictions of the end of the world and great calamity “scheduled” for later this month, today’s readings may seem like a confirmation of death and destruction.
The prophet Jeremiah lived during one of the most turbulent times in Jewish history – the period of defeat and exile in Babylon. Jeremiah had correctly predicted the fall of Judah to Babylon; but he also held up God’s promise to restore the people. During the period of exile in the sixth century, B.C.E., Jeremiah preached a message of hope in which Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the people returned to their homeland under a new covenant with God.
Luke’s Gospel predicts even greater upheavals. His discourse on the end of history comprises almost all of chapter 21, with the verses assigned for today focusing on the cataclysmic events surrounding the return of the Son of Man. Luke introduces Jesus, the victorious Son of Man, as the messianic Lord who has control over the chaotic forces of wars, cosmic signs, and unruly seas.
A new order, a new creation under the complete rule of God will emerge, in which the Divine purpose will prevail under the kingship of Christ. For the disciples of Jesus, therefor, the end is not a catastrophe of terrible doom, but the world’s final deliverance from evil and the restoration of the entire cosmos. Like trees leafing out in the spring herald the approach of summer, unmistakable signs will show the kingdom of God is near (21:29-30). The day will come for everyone, Jesus assures them (21:35), hence the need to be prepared at all times. Disciples who lead faithful lives in the present will be ready.
We can be reconciled to life in its severest aspects if we are confident that the disasters are not meaningless, and that the valley can be made a place of springs. Charles Allen Dinsmore, "Atonement in Literature and Life"
- Try to visualize the events that Jesus describes in the Gospel passage. How do you think those who heard Jesus might have responded to these prophecies? What is your reaction as you read them today, especially in light of recent national and world events?
- Why do you think this passage in Luke is read as we begin the season of Advent?
- Jesus tells his followers that they are to “stand up . . . because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). What do these words mean to you? How would you define redemption? What events in your own life, and in the world around you, are examples of redemption?
- How does Luke 21:34-36 turn the discussion of the future age back to individual lifestyles? What behaviors and relationships will characterize those who are prepared to stand before the Son of Man?
- What feelings does this passage evoke in you? What words or phrases impart a sense of hope? a sense of anticipation? a sense of confidence?