Awaiting promises full of hope

On this first Sunday of Advent, when we begin a new liturgical year, the Liturgy of the Word (seemingly incongruously) draws attention to the end times and calls us to prepare ourselves for that day.

Nov 27, 2021

                                Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Dr Clarence Devadass
When I was growing up, getting into trouble with my parents was a common occurrence for me. One way of getting out of trouble was to say, “I promise never to do it again” and the occasional signing of the cross over my chest saying, “I cross my heart not to do this next time”. There were occasions when I got away scot free and there were times when I didn’t. I am sure that, despite my promises, my parents knew at the back of their minds that I would do the same thing again soon.

Making a promise and the occasional breaking of it are common occurrences in our daily lives. All of us have made promises, broken them, or insisted that others make a promise. If someone made a promise to you, wouldn’t you expect them to keep it? If someone broke the promise they made to you, wouldn’t you be upset and not trust them again? Promises are important to keep because we want others to trust us, just as much as we want to trust them.

On this first Sunday of Advent, when we begin a new liturgical year, the Liturgy of the Word (seemingly incongruously) draws attention to the end times and calls us to prepare ourselves for that day. For every beginning there is an end, and for every end, there is surely a beginning. Despite not knowing the time when all this will happen, the Alpha and the Omega is in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Though the end times seem to dominate the readings today, the season of Advent that we enter is anchored on a promise – God’s promise of a glorious future, rather than a destructive end. The first reading from the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 33:14-16) announces a future wherein the promise of God will be fulfilled. The promise of redemption is directed to His chosen people. Speaking through the prophet, God announces that He will deliver His people to safety and His salvation is assured for all peoples.

In the Gospel (Luke 21:25-28,34-36), Jesus, using apocalyptic language, speaks of a new world that is to come. The dramatic expressions in the Gospel may lead us to think that God is “informing” us of what will happen at the end of time. However, the use of apocalyptic images was not uncommon at the time of Jesus – frequently used in describing the entrance of God (cf. Isaiah 13:9-10). The “turmoil” that Jesus speaks about here has its roots in the creation account found in the Book of Genesis (cf. Gen 1:1-10). It is from chaos that God brings about a new order, a new creation.

Though the description of the end times will cause fear in those who hear it, fear was never the intention. Vigilance and confidence are what Jesus calls His disciples to: “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”

In our second reading (1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2), St Paul, who was expecting the imminent second coming of Jesus, clearly explains how we should prepare for His coming. Addressing the Christians of Thessalonica, Paul prays that the Lord may increase and enrich their love for one another as this is the path to holiness and the only vigilant way of awaiting the coming of the Lord. In short, the coming of the Lord must find us enflamed with love of God and of one another. The readings on this First Sunday of Advent, anchored on God’s promise, point to the realities of peace and fulfilment that will be accomplished by God. The promises of the coming of the Son of Man in the Old Testament, and the promise of the second coming in the New Testament, are indeed promises full of hope – a hope that is not deceptive because God tells the prophet Jeremiah, “I will fulfil the promise I made”. In the meantime, let our vigilance be filled with love, because God is pure love.

The season of Advent provides each one of us with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what is going on inside us; to reflect on the reason for our waiting; the arrival of Jesus, the arrival of Love, in our heart in ever-new ways.

Take a few minutes of quiet time every day this Advent to “stay vigilant” before the Lord. As we look forward to that day of redemption, let our hearts be filled with hope, peace, joy, and love. May our prayer be, O come, divine Messiah! The world in silence waits the day; When hope shall sing its triumph and sadness flee away. Blessed Advent everyone. 

--Fr Dr Clarence Devadass a diocesan priest of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur is the Director of the Catholic Research Centre and Editor-in-Chief of CANews.

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