FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT – C
As the Church enters into the season of Advent, she invites all the faithful to journey with her towards the Second Coming of the Lord which we call the Parousia. But before she embarks on this Advent pilgrimage, she invites us to pause a moment and look back to a point in history so we can learn the wisdom of the past. Then we are able to prepare ourselves to face the future with anticipation and hope which is our salvation.
This is the reason why in this First Sunday of Advent, we read St. Luke’s version on the destruction of the temple and the end of the world. Of course the world did not end after the destruction of the temple but it goes to show that if Jesus’ prediction of its destruction became true in 70 AD then the world will also end but we do not know the time. The destruction of the temple which marked the end of the priesthood of Judaism in the Old Testament paved the way for the birthing of the priesthood of Jesus in the New Testament. The temple which housed the Ark of the Covenant was not needed anymore when the Word became flesh in Jesus Christ. After the destruction of the temple the Kingdom of God indeed came in a new way through the Church.
The catastrophes mentioned in the Gospel are part of the Jewish apocalyptic literature which signals the intervention of God revealing Himself in human history. The worldly upheavals and other cosmic disasters should not be taken literally; they are signs for the believers to hold firm in their faith because God is on their side protecting them. They have to be faithful in the midst of these tribulations through watchful expectation and prayer. Like any other birthing, the coming of God’s Kingdom is preceded by pain expressed through suffering. It entails the destruction of the old structures like the Temple of Jerusalem to give way to the new order of reality like the Church.
These cosmic upheavals can find their expressions in our personal lives. There are those who after experiencing a great crisis in life gave up their faith because they could not comprehend a loving God who would tolerate such pain and suffering. How do we pray to God who is silent in the midst of a family tragedy? How do we understand His presence when He seemed absent in the death of a beloved? How do we appreciate our relationship with God when we are in the middle of an intense difficulty or danger? Some people left their faith in rebellion to God whom they thought had abandoned them when they needed Him the most. To most of us, these are more real than the signs in the sun and the moon and the stars. Jesus reminds us in our Gospel: “Stake awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen….”
When the Church invites us in this Advent Pilgrimage, she assures us that we are not alone in our struggles and that she accompanies us in whatever tribulations we are in. In the midst of life’s tragedies, some romantic couples hold hands together looking at each other while we as members of the Church hold hands together in prayer looking forward to God’s Kingdom which is about to come….