First Sunday of Advent (2015)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
So, we have come round again to the first Sunday of Advent 2015, the beginning of our liturgical year, another year that we trust will be filled with the grace and peace of the risen Christ.
Remember how distraught we were several years ago with the new translation of the Roman Missal? Well, all that fear has passed and we are still praying as we have in ages past, but with a slightly different accent. (Even “with your Spirit” is becoming familiar!)
One truly begins to wonder, therefore, if anything has really changed during this past year: despite the vagaries of weather and the endless political wrangling, most of us still rise each morning with a modicum of eagerness and get about our worldly tasks with the trust that God will guide us safely through another day. Nothing of immense consequence has really changed. According to the old saying, “what goes around comes around and if we are Christian we wait for Christ’s coming again in all his glory, but hopefully not today because there is still too much work to do in this uncompleted world of ours.
Speaking of the season of Advent then, we knew or at least we hoped it would come round again; it always has at least in our time and in our human way of reckoning.
In some sense, the return of the season of Advent is a model or a metaphor for the working of our world, our planet, indeed the universe itself. There is a certain circularity, a cyclic nature about it all. Planets, stars and other heavenly bodies continue to move in their eternally determined fashion. Season follows on season, night on day. Interestingly, we humans take all this for granted. This is the way the universe seems to work. Round and round we go!
Involved in all this, of course is the assumption that there is a certain divine guidance to life in the universe. We have gotten used to the idea that there is and will be a certain trustworthiness in the divine plan. Despite our human destructiveness we simply assume that the planetary system of which we are a part will hold steady on its normal course and surely there will be another tomorrow.
Without this trust in the universe’s predictability there would be no point in rising each morning to reengage the world we call home.
The scriptures for this First Sunday have about them a certain hopeful and yet a menacing quality about them. The prophet Jeremiah predicts that in days to come, God will fulfill his promise to Israel (and us). A savior will rise out of the shoot and root of David’s line, one who will bring justice and safety to the land and its people. No time line is given, of course; we will know that is coming when it happens. In the meantime, the world will continue on its circular pattern. You see, there is a certain reason for hope in that assumption. By the way, hope is the predominant word that surfaces during the season of Advent.
The gospel for this Sunday follows a more threatening model of the future. Saint Luke has Jesus saying that life does not follow a circular model, indeed the very opposite. At a certain point in time, there will be a sudden end to it, a great catastrophe will befall us; the heavens will be shaken; people will stand watching with great fear. In other words, Luke does not assume that life will continue on endlessly; indeed he predicts that at a certain in human time, the heavens and the earth will come crashing down. Have hope, however, for this is a sign of the start of new heavens and a new earth. The Savior will make all things new.
Interestingly, then, there is certain circularity in these menacing words: the old will become new and God’s universe will continue on its merry way.
The question for everybody in these in-between-times therefore is this: what shall we do while waiting. Saint Luke gives us hope in the last line of the gospel passage: “Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect and stand secure before the Son of Man.” (Christ the redeemer)
So, whether one believes in static or a circular vision of the universe, our only answer, it seems to me, is to work with what we’ve got. We know that our world is still going round and round and we with it. The work of the Christian and everybody else, therefore, is to make a “course correction” where we see gloom and doom. It is still a beautiful universe God has created; God depends on us to continue to make it good and productive until Christ the Son of Man returns…whenever that may be.
The scriptures: Jeremiah 33: 14-16;1 • Thessalonians 3: 12, 4:2 • Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: First Sunday of Advent