Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 Thessalonians 3:12--4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
So as to be more available to the graces of these Advent readings,
imagine Jesus’ standing in the shadow of the great temple in Jerusalem. He
taps the stones of the outer wall and speaks of its coming destruction. The
very image of God’s secure dwelling will be shaken and reduced. His listeners
have heard Jesus say many strange things before, but these words find no stretching
of their minds.
It is the Advent season and in our part of the world, the weather-guessers
are predicting snow and cold and with such assurance that perhaps the sun
will actually disappear and leave us darker and colder than ever. Well perhaps
I exaggerate a bit, but the Readings hint at hard times are coming. The Readings
suggest also that a “someone” is arising in our midst to bring about “justice”
What do you want for Advent? What our human inclinations would urge us to
desire is such a sense of security, (as the Jews had in the foreverness of
the temple) that we would not long for God’s personal care. We desire peace
and it is a good thing for which to pray, but we pray for a peace that this
world fails to deliver. This peace enters our hearts within the framework
of our human fragility, such as that of the Jews to whom Jeremiah offers a
prophecy of hope.
We can pray these days of warring and injustice for the coming of Jesus
to assist our efforts in establishing peace on earth and within our earthliness.
What do you want for Advent? We ask not for a dream-state, but for a life-stance
which frees us to welcome his coming on his terms.
To understand more fully these verses from Jeremiah, it would be helpful
to read the previous thirteen verses of this chapter. The prophet is blasting
away at the people of Judah and Jerusalem and predicting their destruction.
In the first five verses ruin and capture by the Chaldaeans is foretold. Then
the spirit of his words changes and recovery is promised and a “shoot” an
offspring of David will arise and bring about fidelity, trust in the God who
made the earth and justice. As always, first the bad news then the good.
In the midst of imminent disaster and apparent abandonment by God, God’s
word speaks through Jeremiah which supports former promises that the city
of Jerusalem will always be called the place of God’s justice. The security
promised is based on God’s fidelity, not on human power or human structures.
The chapter from which the verses of the Gospel are taken begins with the
story of Jesus and his disciples who are watching worshipers entering the
temple. They spot a destitute widow putting in her few coins in the temple’s
collection basket. Then they seem to contrast that with the splendor of the
temple’s construction. Jesus predicts that all this grandeur will fall apart.
His hearers ask incredulously when this will happen and how will they know,
by what signs. The answer Jesus offers is more than they want to know.
What we hear are verses of imminent bad news and as with the verses from
Jeremiah, some corresponding good news. The very most solid elements of creation
will turn to signs of disorder and disaster. The moon, sun, stars and oceans
will announce a shakeup. These will be signs, not of the end, but of the beginning
of a new order. The announcement will be that all those human structures and
cosmic predictables, are not the center, not the resting-place.
We are invited to be vigilant for the coming of the “Rearranger.” The challenge
of these verses is that drunkenness and other disorders keep humans from the
attentiveness to disorder.
It is way too easy and simplistic to interpret these verses as end-of-the-material-world
sayings. They are a context for Jesus to get our attention about the disorder
around us and within us. There are imminent disasters awaiting the disorderly
living. Our human weaknesses disarrange our values, sensitivities, and actions.
It happens to the best of us! Jesus is inviting us to watch the signs of our
times, our personal times. What moons or stars or suns are trembling by our
making them the center or god of our lives. As the Jews relied on the temple
of God rather than the God of the temple, we have human inclinations to grasp
at and hold onto the temporary and yet attractive.
It is the beginning of Advent and in the Opening Prayer the Church invites
us to ask for a spirit of “welcome” to the “Shoot of David,” Jesus. It is
the beginning as well of the new liturgical year. In the United States, this
weekend the new Guidelines for certain liturgical practices take effect. Almost
forty years ago, the native vernacular for the liturgies was instituted on
the First Sunday of Advent. I mention these because it is fitting that Advent
should be the beginning of such rearrangings. We are preparing to welcome
the God made one of us and for us, to shake our stars, moons and suns. He
enters our comfort zones to get our attentions and trust by taking the rugs
of false stability from right under our trembling feet and bringing us to
our knees. Being on our knees is not a bad beginning place to welcome, accept,
and worship the One Who welcomes us by his coming.
“The Lord will shower his gifts, and our land
will yield its fruit.” Ps. 85