Let me start by stating what is painfully obvious: we are living in a very difficult, trying, unsettling time.
To the seasonal surges of the COVID-19 add the barbaric and violent behavior of different splinter groups of Islam jihadists especially in Nigeria and Cameroun; add the forced conversions to Islam of kidnapped Christian girls and loss of property and/or of life due to the “blasphemy law” in Pakistan; add the continuous threat of terrorism; add senseless violence; add concerted efforts to divide our Country, pitting one race against another; add financial straits due to mammoth inflation and controversies over the vaccine mandate; add whatever makes us and our loved ones apprehensive and, maybe, even… panicky and we get a picture of a possible end-of-the-world scenario.
Those signs in the sun, the moon and the stars mentioned in our Gospel passage from Luke (21:25) could be, allegorically, referring to these and other sources of restlessness and inner-turmoil. Hence, this restlessness and inner turmoil can be there before we venture into the much smaller yet immediate world familiar to us and in which we have to face whatever evil affects us personally, directly, along with our permanent sadness and anger thinking about those preborn babies who are destroyed every day, methodically, silently.
In this scenario of mental anguish and heartaches, rather than repeating the trite phrase that Advent prepares us for the coming of Christ Jesus at Christmas, it would be more accurate to say that Advent prepares us for the second coming understood as to what we look forward in the recitation of the Creed:
I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
The second coming of Christ will mark the end of our restlessness, inner turmoil, mental anguish and heartaches. But, as we look forward with hope to the bliss of heaven, our faith must sustain us lest we lose heart. Jesus Christ, our God made flesh, has never left us, nor will he ever leave us. This fact must be firmly imbedded in our minds and bring comfort to our hearts around the clock.
We shall look at Advent, then, as a challenge to rediscover, for our own personal wellbeing and for the good of people around us, the presence of the just shoot of David, of the One who makes Judah feel safe and Jerusalem dwell secure. (Jeremiah 33:15-16)
We should see Advent as the grace-filled time in which we fine tune our perception of Christ’s presence inside us and all around us. The trouble is that, after the Resurrection, our God made flesh has always this penchant for tiptoeing around us quietly, silently, gently lest we get overwhelmed by His omnipotence.
As it is, therefore, Advent should be the time for strengthening our faith so that we can stand erect and not allow ourselves to be swept away by panic, by despair, or by a blind outburst of evil as it happened a week ago, during a Christmas parade in Waukesha. Wisconsin.
Let me read to you again what Jesus, present among us, fully aware of our anguish, wants us to retain and to live by: stand erect and raise your heads…. stand before the Son of Man.
My dear friends in Christ, we are the New Israel, we are the New Jerusalem and the Lord, as I mentioned earlier, has kept his promise: God has taken up our flesh and is Emmanuel, God among us.
An oversight which might be worsening our outlook could be the one of thinking that we are alone facing, in isolation, or with very limited resources, daunting, menacing situations. Whenever we feel alone and overwhelmed, it might become instinctive for us to refer to the Advent Season as “the coming of Christ” to bring us immediate relief.
The reasoning flows like this: since my situation is not improving,; it is actually getting from bad to worse, I hope that one of these days the Lord Jesus will come and fix things up.
What the Church has been trying to tell us all along with the Season of Advent, instead, is that it is never a question of “me against impossible odds” but always of “us, as Church, as the Body of Christ, as the New Jerusalem, united to Christ, one flesh with him,” facing enemies which he has already defeated and which he will defeat in our lifetime too.
In order to convince myself and all of you that it is so, let me direct you to focus on the last sentence of our first reading: “this is what they shall call her: ’The Lord our justice.’” (Jeremiah 33:16)
That personal pronoun “her” refers to all of us together as Church, as the Body of Christ, as the Bride of the Lamb. That her is the flesh of the Body of the Lord our justice.
Now, as we all know from personal experience, whatever ill affects one small portion of our flesh has a painful repercussion on our whole body. And, whatever good affects a small portion of our flesh has a positive repercussion on our whole body. Therefore, Advent is designed to be the high time during which we, by purposeful choices and sharpened awareness, realize and believe that anything frightening, unsettling, overwhelming us as individuals, as small parts of the Body, is felt and dealt with by the [whole] Lord our justice. And the Lord our justice, who is now identified as one with us, will never face something too much for him to handle with ease and always successfully.
The hope that this awareness generates; the confidence that it produces ought to aid us, from one day to the next, overcome all difficulties and continue to help us bear fruits of loving service for each other.
In this context then, the so called “coming of Christ” simply means the progress of his entire Body, each of us included, towards a full share in his victory over all kinds of frightening evils and a full share in his glory as well.