2015 – Cycle C
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25; 1 Thessalonians 3:12 – 4:2; Luke 21:25-28; 34-36
“Stand erect and raise your heads…” [Luke 21:28]
This instruction of Jesus is not the stance of defiance as after 9/11; as voiced by President François Hollande in Paris or that of protesters in the streets of Chicago over the killing of teenage Laquan McDonald.
Rather we are instructed to stand and watch in expectation of what is about to happen for us. It is a stance filled with anticipation and delight. It is parents waiting at the airport for their child to disembark from college for the holidays. It is Catholics in the streets of American, Kenyan and Ugandan cities waiting to watch Pope Francis pass by in the pope mobile. It is a Syrian immigrant family crossing over the border into Austria and Germany.
What Jesus invites us into is the stance of a people who are filled with hope. “Human beings cannot live without hope, without something to live for, without something to look forward to.”*
“To be without hope, to have nothing to live for, is to surrender to death in despair.”* Might this be the hopelessness that underlies the attraction for primarily young males in their twenties to join ISIS? Is this hopelessness not what underlies the cluster suicides of teens in one of the most affluent high schools in the country in Palo Alto, California, as reported in The Atlantic? It this not the hopelessness experienced by many in our country: the elderly, often alone, many warehoused in health-care facilities; the mentally ill, whose services are being cut from state and national budgets; veterans, suffering the consequences of war and abandoned by the country they served needing adequate health care and avenues that address their hunger and homelessness?
“Human beings cannot live without hope…we can find all sorts of things to live for and we can hope for almost anything…for some measure of success or security or the realization of some modest ambition; for our children, that they might be saved from our mistakes and find a better life then we have known; for a better world, throwing ourselves into politics or medicine or technology so that future generations might be better off. Many hopes have given dignity and purpose to the lives of countless people.”*
The, all too, brief liturgical season of Advent therefore invites us not into celebration but rather contemplation?
- What are your hopes?
- Who are your hopes about?
- Are they modest hopes or, like that of the Hebrew prophets, bold,broad and courageous? hey dreamed of deserts running with streams, the blind seeing, divided peoples gathered together, the blessings of everlasting peace, the deaf hearing, the end of suffering and pain. (You see, often our hopes are not expansive enough, are they?)
- Are your hopes, hopes that instill both delight and an action to make a difference on your part?
Jesus also instructs us on what is necessary for Advent contemplation. [See Luke 21:34-36].
- “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy” or tired. Contemplation is not daydreaming. It is a conscious choice to reflect on what God has done for his people and what God has promised to do and what God might now do for our salvation.
- Beware of carousing and drunkenness. What do you overindulge in? Overindulging, excess of any kind leaves no room for contemplation nor is a person in a condition to meditate and ponder.
- Beware that the anxieties of daily life do not overtake you. Jesus denounces worry as a lack of trust in the God who knows what we need. [See Matthew 6:25-34]
- “Be vigilant at all times.” A flashing sign on the Thruway put it succinctly: Stay Awake – Stay Alive.
To be alive is to be a person of hope. To be a person of hope is to be a person who contemplates.
I would encourage all of us to spend time each day of Advent in contemplation. Use the Little Blue Books as a beginning. Do not be afraid to enter into sacred silence. Turn off all electronic devices, the computer, the land line and the TV. Trust me, none of us is that important. Bake in silence as you knead the dough. Wrap gifts and address greetings card in silence as you reflect on those people dearest to you. Sit in a chair and look out the window into the world. What has God done? What has God promised? What is God about to do right now for us?
As Jesus again places before us images of suffering and hardship, of the creation groaning and in misery, come to understand Advent not as solely or even primarily as a preparation for the Feast of Christmas but rather a daily way of living. The Christian life as a perpetual Advent. Our world needs people who can stand erect and raise their heads in hope and trust in a God who saves.
*Taken from “The Spirit of Advent,” Mark Searle, in Assembly, Volume 7:1.