Sunday, November 27, 2022

Negotiating the Junctions of New Life

1st Sunday in Advent (A)

Readings: Isaiah 2: 1-5; Psalm 121 (122): 1-2, 4-5, 6-9; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44

Pictures: By Pawel Czerwinski & Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

My dear friends, can you predict what will happen in a situation like this? Let’s say two cars are waiting, side-by-side, at a traffic junction. What will happen when the lights turn green? In the past, we could say with some confidence that both vehicles will quickly make their way across the junction. But these days isn’t it just as likely to find at least one car staying put? And we know why, right? Speaking from embarrassing personal experience, it’s because the driver’s eyes are fixed not on the lights, but on his phone.

Strangely or not, this is the image that initially comes to mind, when one hears the gospel speak of how, at the Son of Man’s coming, of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left. But notice how all four people are equally engaged in the ordinary busyness of daily life. Yet, somehow, two manage to remain alert to their master’s coming, and are ready to welcome him when he finally arrives. How do they do it?

Perhaps it’s by first taking to heart the crucially important, yet too easily forgotten, message of the second reading. Which reminds us that, whether we happen to be working in the fields or grinding at the millstone, gathered round a conference table or conversing on Zoom, we are always also simultaneously waiting at a junction, at the borderlands between darkness and light, between selfishness and love. Where to remain alert and ready is to strive continually, not just to resist one’s own self-indulgent tendencies, but also to abide by and actively promote gospel values, such as justice, mercy and peace. To let our armour be the Lord Jesus Christ.

To do this is to allow our lives in this passing world to be informed by the vision of the eternal kingdom that is to come. As a result of which, something happens to us. Our hearts and desires take on a certain shape, gradually moulded into the image of Christ. Moving us to yearn for what Christ earnestly desires, and to be repelled by what distresses him.

So that even if, despite our best efforts to change the world for the better, we may seem to make little progress, we will yet find ourselves eagerly awaiting the fulfilment of that consoling vision of peace described in the first reading. The time when our loving and compassionate God will truly wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples. When nation will not lift sword against nation, and there will be no more training for war. And with hearts filled with true Advent hope, we too will cry out with the psalmist: I rejoiced when I heard them say, ‘Let us go to God’s house.’

All of which may bring to mind junctions of a different sort. Not those so easily obstructed by distracted drivers like me, but the ones occupied by uncertain yet hopeful spouses, clinging tightly to each other, as they share in the joyful pain of bringing new life to birth.

Sisters and brothers, what must we do to help one another find and wait expectantly at such places this Advent?

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