Gospel of Luke 21:25-28, 34-46
So… I did it. Yes, indeed I sure did. I went down a convoluted shadowy path this past week. A path crowded on all sidesby misguided conjecture and fraught with misinterpreted prophecies. A path inhabited by men and women, Protestantand Catholic alike, who boldly and unabashedly proclaim to possess the knowledge of the “truth”. A “truth” that they claim has been revealed to them through personal revelation and is only given to those who are the “true” believers. This “truth” they claim? The knowledge of the dates, times, and events pertaining the Second Coming of Christ.
My friends, I am confessing that this past week of homily preparation was not one of joy. As I prepared to embark upon this liturgical season of Advent, I was overwhelmed by the negativity I encountered on full display in the internet world topic of “the second coming of Christ.” Advent is, according to the Norms of the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Missal, “a time of preparation…, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when… minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming…. “For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.”
Delight was definitely not a term I would use to describe my internet experience. For me, the deeper I went into the world-wide web of end-times prophecy the more discouraged, depressed, and disheartened I became. Global war, environmental disasters, wide-spread persecutions, and apostasy are not the preferred themes of traditional Christmas songs and Hallmark movies. Yet, in today’s Gospel in Luke, this 1stSunday in Advent, Jesus is speaking to his disciples about these very same catastrophicevents.
It is easy to read this Gospeland then allow the political, natural, and religious events of our current day to darken our expectant joy and diminish our faith and hope in the Second Coming of Christ. Even today we offer our prayers to those individuals, families, and communities whose lives and livelihoods were affected by fire and earth quake. Yet, despite the turmoil and terrors, we are instructed in today’s Gospel to “stand and raise our heads” in the wonderful anticipation of our promised redemption.
So…how do we rectify this apparent contradiction? This contradiction evidenced by today’s Gospel and its warnings of trial, tribulation, tragedy, and discord in the light of Advent, a season of “devout and expectant delight.”
We must first come to understand who we are as Catholics and what we believe.
Who we are? We are the body of Christ with Jesus as our head. We are the Church and there is no separation of Jesus and his church. The church was born on Pentecost and has continued, and will continue, throughout the rest of history until the Second Coming of Christ.
What we believe? We believe that Christ is present in his Church. We are not “dispensationalist”, nor do we profess “millennialism”. Each of these fallacies deny Christ’s presence in his church and profess that the church will be “raptured” before the second coming of Christ. The catechism clearly confronts these false doctrines, stating that “the final age of the world is with us” and “that Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled… by the king’s return to earth.” (CCC 670 & 671)
My friends, we are now currently living in the end times… the last days!
This reality, the reality that Jesus Christ, through his birth, life, passion, and death has allowed us to become the children of God, co-heirs to the kingdom, is the very foundation of our faith and our hope. Our hope that as sons and daughters of God, the Almighty, we will receive the promise of God, eternal life in perfect in love with our Creator and with his creation.
Yet, in spite of our belief in the promises of God, and the hope which is produced, I believe we, as the church, the body of Christ, have become drowsy and have succumbed to the anxieties of life. We have allowed fear and sin to exist in our lives, and in turn have become apathetic, or at the very least dismissive, to our mission as ordained to us by Christ.
Today, in this country, the greatest threat to life is not war, pestilences, or natural disaster it is self-harm. A recently published study by the Center for Disease control reports that the life-expectancy rate in theUnited States has decreased continuing a 3-year period of stagnation and decline. The main reasons for this decline in life-expectancy? Suicide and drug over-dose.
Deaths from heart disease, the number 1 killer of Americans, have leveled off. Deaths from cancer and other serious illnesses are in fact declining. Yet, the average life-span of an American is decreasing, not for lack in advancement of medical science, but rather to loss of hope.
We, as disciples of Christ, members of his body, his church, have the cure to such an illness. For it is hope that flows abundantly from the well-spring of grace which has been given to us without merit or measure by God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are his ministers of grace and communicators of hope.
As we enter into this Advent season preparing our homes, our places of work, and our community to celebratethe 1st coming of Jesus, let us commit ourselves to preparing also for his second coming by standing alert, awake, and ready to be the agents of hope in a world so desperately lacking.