Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thes 3:12- 4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
– Edmond Lo
The last liturgical year ended in the crowning of our Lord Jesus Christ as King of the Universe, which is very much in line with the ending of the history of salvation as recorded in the Bible: the Word of God emerging victorious over all forces of evil and was acclaimed as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16). This Sunday we begin a new lectionary year by celebrating the coming of the Lord in the Season of Advent.
Much like the way the world celebrates a new calendar year, the Church begins a new lectionary year with hope and expectancy: “The days are coming…I will raise up for David a just shoot…In those days Judah shall be safe…” (Jer 33:14-16).
She begins the New Year by making resolutions: “Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4). Make us “increase and abound in love for one another and for all…to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones” (1 Thes 3:12-13).
She begins the New Year in anticipation of Jesus’ second coming: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk 21:27).
The Church’s celebration of the new lectionary year is similar in many ways to the New Year celebration at Times Square except the former goes mostly unnoticed by many, including – sadly – many of us who belong to the Church.
As we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent, let’s follow the tradition of the early Church to pray the Marana tha – “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20); let’s pray for the coming of Christ in glory at the Parousia.
True prophets infuse hope
– Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau
Many interpret the dramatic expressions described in today’s gospel as information on what will happen at the end of the world. The thought of the end of the world scares many. Jesus does not intend to provoke fear, but to get just the opposite. He wants to free us from fear, inspire joy and infuse hope.
First of all, the elements mentioned here (the sun, the moon, the stars, the powers of the heavens, the sea) are the same ones that appear in the story of creation. The book of Genesis begins with the words: “The earth had no form and was void; darkness was over the deep” (Gen 1:2). No light, no life, everything was chaos and darkness until God intervened with his word. Then the sun and the moon appeared to mark the regular rhythms of days, nights and seasons. Thus it went from chaos to cosmos (order) and the earth became habitable for humans, animals and plants. In our passage an opposite movement is announced: the return to the primordial chaos.
The apocalyptic images used by Jesus speak of what is happening today. People commit abuses and injustices; hate reigns; there is violence, terror, war, inhumane conditions. Nature herself is destroyed by the overexploitation of resources. Is the history of humanity thus headed toward an inevitable catastrophe? No—Jesus assures us (and this is the central message of the passage)—but rather toward a new creation.
Where signs of the disorder caused by sin are seen, there the Son of Man with power and great glory should be expected. His power will bring forth a new world from chaos (v. 27).
Jesus wants to warn us of the danger of fear and discouragement in the face of evil. He invites us to open our hearts in hope. We are not to be “stunned by fear.” We need to “get up and raise our heads.” It’s enough to let the word of God work, as it happened at the beginning of creation.
How many people we see walking “bent”, oppressed by sorrow and misadventures, numbed with fear? They do not have the strength to lift their head because they lost all hope: a wife abandoned by her husband, parents disappointed by the choices of the children, a professional ruined by envy of colleagues, men and women victims of hatred and violence, people who feel at the mercy of their instincts …
Today’s Gospel invites everyone “to lift up the head.” There’s no chaos from which God cannot obtain a new and wonderful world. There is only one way to stay vigilant: in the face of the chaos, to pray. Prayer—Jesus says—will have two effects: it will give the strength to “escape all these things that are going to happen,” that is, it will make us see all the events with God’s eyes and ensures that we are not caught by fear.