By Sister Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH
Ps. 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in disarray, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the power of heaven will be shaken”.
So begins the Gospel passage for the first Sunday of Advent, which proceeds to tell us that after these events, people will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory.
The year 2012 has provided more than enough “signs” for most of us, even though we don’t believe that the apocalypse is imminent. Rising oceans, widespread droughts, rampant forest fires and an increase in the frequency and intensity of destructive storms have captured the attention of just about everyone. Not to mention the disasters born of human hubris: violent conflicts in many parts of the world, economic collapses; and political and civic polarization. If we have not yet died of fright, surely we have been shaken.
How do we respond to these distressing signs in our times? As the Gospel states, some numb themselves in “carousing and drunkenness,” which today might include obsessive and self-indulgent preoccupation with iPhones, tablets, social networking and the like. Conversely, some become so riddled with anxiety that they can’t function. Some turn on others in misplaced anger or fear.
As people of faith, how might we respond differently?
The Gospel passage tells us to “stand erect and raise your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” We can also take a cue from Jeremiah:
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.”
As Christians we believe that the “just shoot” has indeed been raised. Jesus –God incarnate – lived among us, preached unceasingly God’s limitless love for us and promised to be with us always. And when, in Paul’s words, we “increase and abound in love for one another and for all,” then perhaps Jesus’ redeeming love is most fully present. That can be a subtle presence, not always easily discerned. It’s understandable if at times we might prefer the certainly of the sight of Jesus coming in a cloud.
But is this not the invitation of Advent? To engage in watchful waiting…to be vigilant in prayer…to look for those subtle signs of God’s dwelling within and among us, even now…to do our part to bring about the reign of God on earth…to tap into the wonder of it all.
With trust in God’s promise to be with us in all things, perhaps we can pray with the psalmist:
Your ways, O Lord, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.
What are you being invited to during this Advent season?