There is a barking dog across the alley from my bedroom which is in direct line from the little yelping monster. It seems the barking begins fifteen minutes before my morning alarm clock is scheduled to disturb me. Waking up is not easy in the early morning from sleep nor any other time something alerts our minds, or sensitivities, or consciousness that we have been dozing. Recently, here in the United States, two aircraft pilots, piloting together in their cockpit were not exactly sleeping, but were preoccupied with their personal lap top computers, so much so, that they flew right over the city at which they were scheduled to land. Something woke them up one hundred miles past their landing place.
We can pray these days as we head toward the celebration of the liturgy for this week, with the many calls which life offers for us to come alive, shake off numbness, electrify our spirits and move us to stand up to face the grace of each moment.
To understand fully these verses from our First Reading, you might wish to read the previous chapter. It is a war story of kings battling against each other. Power and domination drive for supremacy. It is distressing and relentless.
Our First Reading contains the three short verses which begin this, the next chapter. They are full of hope, redemption and resurrection. The prophet speaks of hope to those who belong to God. There is the exact and explicit promise of a recovery of life for those who lie in the dust. There is a forever-promise to that life given to those whose names are in the “Book”.
Next Sunday is the feast of Christ the King. We will hear about Jesus’ being King presented on His wooden throne. Today’s Gospel is more of a prophetic presentation of a time of distress where all that is usual, predictable and reliable will be shaken. The stars, sun, moon as symbols of order will be replaced by the “Son of Man” coming upon the earth to reestablish the original creational harmony.
There is an Advent theme to these readings and especially at the end of the Gospel. Although Advent begins two weeks from today, here in today’s Gospel a theme of alertness or being awake for the day of the coming of the Son of Justice. Jesus uses a fig tree whose buds indicate the coming of fruitfulness. Jesus tells His disciples to begin to watch for the signs of disorder, “tribulations”, and they will be a kind of wake-up call to watch for God’s response. It is tempting to think that the response will be anger and vengeance. Christ the King is the divine response.
In the days of Jesus’ journey on earth, seasonal, planetary, relational, and ritual orderliness were signs of God’s presence and human holiness. The fig tree follows the seasonal changes, buds are followed by fruit. Jesus begins the rearrangement of things by announcing that the old order, symbolized by the vision of the planets falling, is coming to an end. He is the new and stable sign of the new order. As people once set their sense of permanence by the stars and season, Jesus establishes Himself as the new way of orderliness and holiness.
Our human disorder eventuates in our being so low we have to reach up to touch bottom. Those brave souls who have found sobriety in the various Twelve Step Programs, have had to wake up to their being that “bottomed out”. The problem is that when we are living in calamity and recklessly bouncing through the lives around us, we are in some way, sleep-walking. Disorderliness can seem to be livable, comfortable and the norm.
I would consider myself as having an orderly room here in our little house. There are some, (no names mentioned) who have become archeologists when they search for things on or near their desks. At times we wonder where they sleep at night. For them, I am obsessive. For me, they are addicted to adventure.
Here, as we near the end of this liturgical year, we are invited to face Jesus as the norm, the model, the person Who is offering a way to know and accept what is ultimately good for us. Strictly, by ourselves, we would always be in states of confusion about what is reckless and what is reverent. This confusion can become a comfortable and irresponsible way of crashing through our lives and those around us. Jesus is the divine wake-up call for us to rise and shun the luxury of sleep-living.
“It is good for me to be with the Lord and to put my hope in Him.” Ps.73, 28
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