The Messiah is Already Among Us

12-02-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

Wow! Dear God! Is it really the First Sunday in Advent? Is Christmas really that close? Why is life running along so quickly? We start a new “Church Year,” with a civil year to start shortly. Last weekend we ended our Church year with a big noise about Christ the King and this week we begin our year with a quiet reflective tone. Our scripture readings for this initial Sunday of Advent remind us that we are people who hear the melody of the future.

These sacred words in our scripture call us to rejoice, even in the face of our failures and wrongdoings, because we know that God will not fail us. They, in fact, encourage us to plan for the future, because we are certain that God will not crush our hopes. We are invited to work for a better tomorrow; because we are fully convinced that today God is fulfilling promises and always acting on our behalf. Indeed, is not the “Son of Man” coming, and also has already come. Our hope and hopeful way of living can make for a brighter future for all. Each of the readings warns us about the dark days coming, but more importantly, each reading offers us bright rays of hope.

Our prophet Jeremiah who spoke six centuries before Jesus delivers his message just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s followers were a broken and bewildered people. They needed consolation and hope. Jeremiah’s words offer both.

The prophet turns the people’s eyes - no matter the darkness they see around them - to a great day of brightness. Even though their enemies are preparing to get them and plow them under the soil, the prophet declares that a shoot shall sprout and flourish. Even though the people are defenseless before their enemies, the great Jeremiah assures them that God will shield them, that Jerusalem will stand secure, that God’s promises will be fulfilled, that God’s justice, which is beyond understanding, will prevail. What a great and brilliant message.

In the second reading, Paul urges us to live in hope, with this hope made real in the hands-on love of neighbor. As Paul points to the coming of the Lord, he calls on God to ground us solidly in justice and blamelessness against that coming. Paul teaches us that, as followers of Christ, God calls us out of self-centeredness and into a relationship with God and other people. We clearly find an eschatological thrust (end times) in the Gospel. The Gospel writer Luke portrays Jesus prophesying the end times and his coming again. We discover that signs and wonders will accompany them, causing great apprehension and anxiety. Jesus, however, exhorts hope. His powerful message is not to run and hide, but to hold up our heads high in anticipation of the coming of justice and salvation. Although the Gospel begins with images of cosmic chaos, it ends by painting a picture of self-possession and confidence in God.

It is quite striking that today’s readings, which are all pointing to the end times, have much to offer for us who are living in the present. Like the entire Advent season, they impart a joyous and wonderful spirit. They lift us up. They ask that we have an attentive joyfulness about ourselves, in a way that is anchored in the knowledge and faith that Jesus has already won salvation for us, and that the Messiah is already among us.

Fr. Brian