First Sunday of Advent
PS 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 THESS 3:12-4:2
LK 21:25-28, 34-36
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise,” writes Isaiah in today’s reading. The promise is of a new reality for the people of Israel. The promise to be fulfilled is that a “just shoot” will arise in the house of David and that through that one, justice will be established and when justice, peace also will follow.
This is the reading for the first Sunday of Advent, which, in the Church’s calendar, marks New Year’s Day. The new year starts with a promise from the Lord. And the promise is spoken to the people in the midst of their exile. It is spoken at a time when it seems that promise is really very far off form being fulfilled.
This seems a desirable prophesy for today as well. And it seems just as unlikely that it will be fulfilled now as it probably did then to the people of Israel. We think of Syria and Iraq and the slaughter of innocents that ISIS continues to perpetuate. We think of the intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine, of the Ukraine, of the immigrant crises in the Mediterranean and on our own southern border. We think of the violence on our own streets in St. Louis and the ever widening gap between the haves and the have nots, throughout this country of ours and in every part of the world today.
Justice? Peace? Really?
It is a new Church year starting today. Advent means coming toward. The Lord is coming toward us again in a new ways. But we are not pretending that he has not already come, definitively. God has has already come in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. But this is a new moment for us to try to open up again, anew, to that coming, and to let it transform us. Christ comes to transform the world into something different, to overcome our isolation, our fear, our pettiness, our hatred and divisions that we establish among ourselves. The way Christ comes is in what looks like weakness.
This is the key for us. Peace can be established around us in our daily living if we allow that same method of Jesus to be ours. Instead of spending most of our time blaming all those other people “out there” for not being just and not establishing peace, let the call be to start with ourselves today.
Fr. Chris Collins, S.J. is Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity.