1st Sunday Advent Year C
We may be tempted to think that today’s scripture readings are not meant for our world and in fact come from another world different from our own. In the First Reading, Jeremiah looks forward to honesty and integrity in our land. Paul, in the Second Reading, expects us to live a completely blameless life. And Jesus, in the Gospel, speaks of the day when “the powers of heaven will be shaken and men will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”. Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus may appear irrelevant to the world in which we actually live today. With no experience of the concerns and hardships we encounter. But nothing could be further from the truth! Their world was as disordered as ours. Jeremiah preached as the Babylonian armies were closing on Jerusalem. Paul wrote when the first Christians were beginning to despair under the pressure of persecution. And Jesus’ words are said His passion. Now, you see, their message was for a world like ours.
But how could we recognise the visions of today’s readings, in the midst of such chaos and suffering we live under? How can these be relevant for our situation? The answer is illustrated in the lesson given in a most simple way by an elderly lady in a geriatric hospital. She had been paralysed for years but had retained the use of her hands. With these hands she produced the most beautiful embroidery one could ever wish to see. One day she showed a visitor her latest creation, a beautiful pattern of flowers and birds. “This,” she said, “is the way God sees our world, a thing of beauty, ordered and harmonious.” Then reversing the material she showed the other side, the little tufts and loose ends, the irregular patterns. “And this” she added “is the world we see: disordered, problems unresolved, questions unanswered. But it will not always be like this. Next time you come I will have tidied up that side too and it will be as good as the other. This is what God will do at the end of time. He will tidy up what men have disturbed, and put right what has gone wrong.”
Jesus Christ taught us to look at the world through His own eyes – the eyes of God. When we look at the world using our own eyes we are filled with confusion. But using Christ’s vision we recognise something ordered and beautiful. We see a purpose in life; we are given true insight. The season of Advent prepares us to look at the world through Christ’s eyes: it prepares us for His coming into our life in a richer and more realistic way. Sometimes, we falsely think that we prepare by pretending that we are already in another world: or we imagine that the difficulties of this life are somehow an obstacle between ourselves and God. But Christ makes it plain that we prepare for His coming precisely by taking a searching look at this world and perceiving, through the disorder, the guiding hand of God. With Christ’s insight we can enjoy the vision of Jeremiah and Paul: we can recognise that God is truly with us.
How can we absorb that miraculous assurance of God’s presence enjoyed by Jeremiah and Paul? How can we learn to look at the world through Christ’s eyes? These are life-tasks. But Advent is the time set aside to stop and reflect in a special way on how Christ comes into our life.
Firstly, Advent directs us to the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. Our Christian faith is deepened only by reflecting upon this historical event of nearly two thousand years ago. Our faith is not founded on feelings or emotions. It is founded on one clear fact: that in the birth of Jesus Christ, God came into the world as a man.
Secondly, Advent directs our attention to Christ’s coming in our everyday life. He comes when we least expect Him: in the awkward person we have to deal with; when we are feeling unwell and are tired with the difficulties of life. Our daily prayer helps us to prepare for those moments.
Finally, Advent directs us to Christ’s coming for the last time – “the day that will be sprung on you suddenly like a trap”. If we have contemplated His coming at Christmas and in our daily life, this final coming will be no fearful scanning of the horizon hoping we will not be caught unawares. On the contrary, it will be a welcoming of God who has been as close to us as He is in our celebration of the Eucharist: a God with whom we have been in such close communion that we have learned to see the world through His eyes.
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