November 28, 2010

Advent and the Peace Established by God

The liturgy of the First Sunday of Advent makes us unsettled.  Something about God's coming is terrifying.  Next week and the week after, the great prophet of God's coming - John the Baptist -will only intensify this feeling, urgently calling us to repentance, to make straight the pathway of the Lord.  But this Sunday, it is not his prophet, but the Lord himself who unsettles us, comparing his coming to the waters of destruction at the time of Noah.  He commands us to be prepared - implying that we are not, and this is unsettling.  See Mt. 24:37-44.

Make no mistake.  To feel unsettled is a great grace.  We are already becoming free of dehumanizing ignorance when we catch the hint that our lives are not as they ought to be.  Because of this grace, now is a time of preparation.

This mystery of God's coming into the world evokes a life of conversion, repentance, true piety, forgiveness, and loving sacrifice - not only for the total stranger, but also for those entrusted to us in our own households, even the ones we want to avoid. If you want justice, explains Cardinal van Thuan in his paradoxical fashion, you must work for peace. What can we do to prepare of the Lord's coming, to prepare for the peace He alone provides?  Such hard work!  And the Church asks us to embrace this cheerfully.

Advent begins with the call to wake from sleep, to live in the daylight, to put on the Armour of God, to put on Jesus Christ.  These calls are urgent.  We must not stay asleep in a world of buying and selling, of being entertained, of selfish consumption - we are created for better things.  The calls of the Word of God wake us to this reality, move us to seek the Lord in places other than our own comfort.  They contain the specific gravity of God's grace.  He comes to purify and reorder and re-establish.  He makes all things new.  Never repeating himself, a unique opportunity is before us, one that will never be extended quite this way again.   He comes to establish peace, to separate and order things to his rest like in the first days of creation.  What is his rest?  What is his peace?  He, himself, is the peace He gives and leaves with us.

Since such a great prize is offered us, we must not remain indifferent to the coming of the living God into our lives.  This season helps us see that each coming of the Lord into our hearts is another renewal and deepening of Christmas and at the same time an anticipation of our final judgment. If there is joyful expectancy in all the prayers between now and Christmas, there is also the holy fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom.