Today’s first reading and psalm present us with a promise and a hope of justice, of peace and of harmony between antagonists: lamb and wolf, baby and cobra, child and adder. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever: something the people of God needed to hear and had so long desired to hear. And yet the beautiful promise sounded so distant into the future, that its fulfillment appeared to them beyond reach. When?
In the gospel reading Jesus tells the disciples that the promise has now been fulfilled: Blessed are the eyes that see what you see... many prophets and kings desired to see what you see... A blessing that becomes reality doubly in ourselves, not only because we live in this time of fulfillment, but also because we believe without having seen [Jn. 20:29], just as the prophets hoped without seeing. Indeed we, as many others today, are actually challenged to believe against what we do see, which is so different from the signs promised through Isaiah: justice and peace, coexistence in harmony.
When those signs are not at hand, it is our responsibility to create them to help ourselves and others to believe. Not necessarily to produce justice, peace and harmony in the world at large, which is clearly beyond our individual capabilities, but to create them in the mini-worlds in which each one of us lives: family, work place, social circles. Does my presence bring justice, peace and harmony to my mini-world? Am I a sign, or a counter-sign?
Surely there are two different dimensions to a sign: sign as offered and signed as recognized. It is our Advent calling to live in such a way that our living has the potential of being recognized as sign, regardless of whether others do recognize it or not. Their recognition is not our responsibility, it is theirs. It was Christ’s role to offer the witness of his life that will remain incomplete in a given person, until it is recognized as such by that person. When Paul writes about “what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” [Col. 1:24], he would seem to be pointing to our acceptance of that suffering that will allow it to become fully a sign. Advent is a time for striving to recognize signs.
Our own lives are marked with a sustained Advent character, an expectation of a promised encounter with the Lord. An encounter that will ultimately become reality in a twofold way: surely in the eschatological encounter of the Lord’s second and final coming, but also in the experience of our individual deaths, where it is we who will be coming to the Lord in a reversed Christmas experience, rather than the Lord having to come to us.
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