Meditation of the week

Victory of the faithful

Luke 21,25-28; 34-36.

Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s New Year and our time of preparation for the feast of Christmas. Advent comes from Latin adventus which means coming. Consisting of four Sundays, it is a time of waiting and preparation for Christmas. The liturgical readings for the first week of Advent always focus on the second coming of Christ at the end of time.

When Jesus, towards the end of his public ministry, spoke about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple it was still an event to come in the future.  By the time Luke wrote his gospel Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed by the Romans so that in his gospel Jesus’ original predictions about these events became a description of what actually happened. The end of the world, however, is still to come and the only language appropriate for this indescribable event is apocalyptic, which purports to be a description of the future. Its rich symbolism and colourful imagery conveys an atmosphere of crisis, as the final showdown between the powers of good and evil is about to take place. The outcome is always a victory for God and the righteous but usually at the cost of great trials and much suffering for his faithful ones.

The signs in the sun and moon and stars, indicative of cosmic catastrophes, are regular apocalyptic phenomena preceding or accompanying a crisis. The nations in agony are the gentiles awaiting their judgement by God. The sea, upon which God imposed his will at creation, was traditionally seen as the repository of evil forces (Rev 13,1). Men are dying of fear as they await the unleashing of these menacing forces on the world.  The powers of heaven that will be shaken are probably the heavenly bodies identified with the pagan gods of Greco-Roman religion.

The coming of the Son of Man is the moment of victory for those who remain faithful. The mention of “the cloud” for Luke has resonances of the cloud of the Transfiguration which covered the disciples and made them afraid, and the cloud in the Ascension which took Jesus from the disciples’ sight (Acts 1,9).  The victorious Messiah king, Jesus Christ, will come in a cloud clothed with the power and glory of God

The faithful, by contrast with the gentiles (unbelievers), have nothing to fear when these signs presaging the end of the world, appear. They are to stand erect, heads held high in the posture of victors, because their salvation is at hand.

Christians, awaiting the end times, are to be on their guard lest their hearts be coarsened by dissipation, drunkenness and the cares of life. They should stay awake and pray at all times for the strength to be faithful to the end.

Praying at all times, means being on God’s wavelength, being tuned in to his love in our lives, in people, in nature, in the events of our times, in history, in literature, in the arts and sciences, in philosophy and theology, and especially in our hearing and reading  the Scriptures, and  in our prayer and worship of God. Advent prayer is waiting on God, with a listening ear. It is less about talking and more about listening and doing His will.

Father Geoff O’Grady