Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent: Looking Both Ways

It's been nearly a week since I've seen someone's announcement that the end of days are upon us.

False alarms are nothing new. It's been about 18 centuries since St. Hippolytus of Rome figured the Second Coming would happen in the year 500.

Swedenborg speculated, in 1758, that the Last Judgment happened in the previous year — I give him points for originality — and Harold Camping got it wrong twice. (January 25, 2015; April 19, 2015)

Me? I believe what our Lord said: including what's recorded in Mark 13:32-37, which ties in with today's Gospel reading, Luke 21:25-28, 34-36. That's about an advent that hasn't happened yet, and ends with pretty good advice:
" 'There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, 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 powers of the heavens 8 will be shaken.

"And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory...."

"...Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.' "
(Luke 21:25-27, 36)
The second petition in the Lord's prayer, "thy kingdom come," is mostly about our Lord's return: "Marana tha," "Come, Lord Jesus." (Catechism, 2817)

That doesn't mean we can just sit back, ask God to speed things along, and relax. We've been living in 'end times' ever since Pentecost, and we've got a whole lot of work left to do: working for justice and peace, getting ready for the kingdom of God. (Catechism, 2816-2821)

"Watch!" Plus Two Millennia, and Counting

This is the first Sunday after Black Friday, which used to be America's day to start overspending on Christmas gifts. Stores started opening Thanksgiving day a few years back, and that's another topic.

It's also the start of Advent: so how come the Gospel reading is about signs in the sky and the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory?

Advent is the season when we look back at our Lord's first arrival — and ahead, to the day the Son of Man returns. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 524)

Our Lord's return has been "imminent" for about two millennia now. Jesus said we should "be prepared," since we wouldn't know when that will be. (Matthew 24:44; Catechism, 673)

Apparently Jesus didn't, either:
" 'But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.

"It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.

"Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.

"May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.

"What I say to you, I say to all: "Watch!" ' "
(Mark 13:32-37)
Accepting that our Lord will return, and that the Son of Man's arrival will be an epic event, is not even close to assuming that someone knows more than Jesus did. (Catechism, 1038-1041)

I've wondered if 'end times' predictions enjoy lasting popularity because folks like drama — and get impatient. Two millennia is a long time, by our standards. On the other hand, we're still working on those orders outlined in Matthew 28:19-20.

Evangelization and eschatology are important. So is how I live. I'm expected to love God, love my neighbors, see everyone as my neighbor, and treat others as I'd like to be treated. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1789)

It's simple, but not easy: and that's yet another topic.

Review and a Chesterton Quote

During Advent, we'll be reviewing events leading up to our Lord's first coming, putting Christmas in perspective. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 524)

That'll give me plenty of material for these posts. The next two Sunday Gospel readings focus on John the son of Zechariah, and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception comes up December 8, for example.

I'll probably talk about "the true meaning of Christmas," too.
"Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it; that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate."
("The New Jerusalem," G. K. Chesterton (1920) via BookRags)
And that's yet again another topic.



Rich Maffeo said...

This is REALLY good.

Sunita Gandhi said...

Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing!
Global Curriculum

Brigid said...

Wrong word: "Advent is the season when we look back and our Lord's first arrival"

Missing article: "and Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception comes up"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Thank you, Rich Maffeo.

(I'm finally catching up on 'correspondence.')

Brian Gill said...

Found, fixed, and thanks, Brigid.

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