1st Sunday Advent C – A Better Future
Nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves… In the aisles of an enormous shopping store one Christmas I saw the face of a little toddler go from darkness to light. She had lost her mother, who in fact was only a few feet away and thumbing through bargains. The little girl’s forehead had collapsed, her face blotched, tears flowed and sobs erupted with instant convulsion. And then from out of nowhere the mother swooped and cradled the little girl in her arms. Sobs were transformed into tears of relief and joy as the young woman hugged her little girl and the briefly lost toddler embraced her mother, smothering her with kisses and smiles. Somehow, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, this time of year reminds me of that incident long ago when ‘Christmas’ came to that little girl in the crowded store.
And that day will be sprung on you suddenly like a trap… Our real fear is not that we may die suddenly – always a possibility – or that the world may end or implode suddenly and without warning. I think our real concern should be that we sleepwalk through life, never waking up to the compelling reality of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. It’s like drifting through life without ever really loving, caring, apologising, reconciling, forgiving, being mindful of others – without ever tasting the real joy of living, of personal encounter with Christ because we have been too distracted by the passing scene. “What a waste it would be to enter the end of our lives with the same old petty and weary thoughts and reactions running through our minds,” wrote hospice worker and insightful author Kathleen Dowling Singh.
And people dying of fear as they await what menaces the world… The unpredictability of the Covid-19 pandemic has put much of the world in ‘sixes and sevens’ for the past twenty months, reaching over 200 million and causing 4.5 million deaths worldwide. Climate conditions on the planet have become more unpredictable, bringing devastating drought and flooding to peoples and places that never had them before, unleashing untold destruction on property and lands and animal life, killing thousands and wiping out hundreds of thousands of people’s homes. People have been very anxious and the Gospel warns the followers of Jesus not to let their hearts become “coarsened” (or “drowsy” in the American translation). Luke’s Greek word here suggests heaviness of heart – feeling depressed, anxious, tense, slouchy and slothful. We can let any combination of busyness, pressure, weariness and over-extension break our spiritual posture so that we fail to pray, fail to be vigilant so the edge of our spiritual alertness becomes soft and muffled and flaccid.
The season of Advent recalls for me the story of the German soldier who was tasked to administer a lethal injection to an emaciated Auschwitz prisoner, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, as he starved to death in an underground cell on August 14th 1942. Notice the date! At the moment of injection, a look of pure love more powerful than anything his executioner had ever before experienced, emanated from the skeletal face and sunken eyes of the Franciscan friar. The warmth of the love, mercy and forgiveness that shone through Fr. Kolbe told his executioner that a presence and power greater than the might of Hitler and the Nazi regime was in that horrible little cell. Doesn’t Advent awaken us to a hidden presence and power, a new beginning, a vision of hope, because God is at work even through adversity? And don’t the rituals of Advent, like evergreen wreathes and lighted candles, family gatherings and the anticipation of children, point us to a better and more abundant future?
Fr. QQ – 11/2/201
Life is Advent. Life is recognising the coming of the Lord. —– Henri Nouwen