Our readings today are all concerned with the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ in time and at the end of time, to do away with sin and subject all things to Himself for the glory of His Father.
Now, it is not possible to speak of the events of those latter days using ordinary language, for they will be events the like of which have never before seen and are totally unheard of, and that is why, in the Sacred Scriptures, even when Jesus Himself is speaking, the language used is of a special character, it is called apocalyptic language: a language full of strange and extreme events, cosmic at times in their dimension and impact, always awesome, and usually terrifying for mere human beings. Because those times will be divine times, so to speak, when the divinity of Jesus and the supernatural majesty and power of the all Holy God are revealed, they will – inevitably -- be times of darkness, as when foolish eyes look directly on the sun; and also times of great distress such as only the dethroning of nature’s primeval powers could inspire:
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars; on the earth nations will be in dismay perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
In the first reading, we heard:
In those days Judah shall be safe, and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: ‘The Lord our justice.'
Jerusalem will be safe because its inhabitants will be clothed with justice, the supernatural God-given gift of righteousness, says Jeremiah; and that is what St. Paul had in mind in our second reading:
Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God – and as you are conducting yourselves – you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
Human kind, being subject to sin, will not be able to survive the manifestation of divine holiness unless they become clothed with the righteousness of the Lord, and learn to live in such a way as to please God ... not by mere chance, as if He were to just come cross them in their garden of delights and be pleased with their life style; but by direct and humble design to deliberately please Him by sincere endeavours and loving aspirations in accordance with His will for their salvation. Good eyes or weak eyes, it makes no difference, all are blinded by the direct glare of the noon-day sun; likewise, brash self-confidence, instinctive courage, or natural ability, will offer no comfort when primeval, instinctive, terror strikes the human heart at the sight of tumultuous seas, mountainous waves, or rivers of flaming volcanic lava in full spate presaging the advent of the Almighty and All-Holy God to save or to judge.
Only those found to be suitably prepared -- by sincere conversion of heart, suitable training in the spiritual combat, and divine encouragement and endowment -- will be able to survive what Jesus had in mind when He told us:
Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent, and to stand before the Son of Man.
Indeed, only by grace and vigilance, only by prayer and personal love of God, will anyone be enabled:
to stand before the Son of Man.
Since this will be the situation when God comes to bring time to a close and destroy sin from the face of the earth; and more especially, when you think that we only have one life -- that is one chance, and whoever gets it wrong cannot come back and try again -- it is surely amazing that many are willing to put their trust in merely human, self-appointed and self-opinionated, teachers, gurus, prophets, and guides! Divine holiness, majesty and power will be manifested; all-seeing knowledge and inscrutable wisdom will be deployed; and yet, you will find some devilishly proud and presumptuous people calling on others amazingly foolish enough to listen to them peddling their own ‘special powers’ and saying, “Follow me, walk along my path, do what I am doing”, or playing upon their hearers’ indolence, indifference, and vices, with such words as: “See how I am enjoying myself! It won’t be hard at the end at all … you just go to sleep, there’s nothing after that!” Thus, considerations that have exercised human minds and involved human hearts and consciences from the beginning, issues which have long provoked a morally universal appreciation and response from the beginnings of humankind, are at times challenged and called into question by some individuals or certain groups whose life is but a passing shadow and whose wisdom and experience are mere pathetic testimonies to human conceit and pride, being ludicrously incomprehensive and, potentially indeed, tragically inept. They come out with teachings which -- though seemingly humane -- are deceitful, destructive, and ultimately, devilish: such as, homosexuality can be an equal option for life alongside marriage between man and woman; or again, there is no right and wrong; there is no truth, it is only a matter of social or political correctness and human upbringing; the sense of sin is but the result of genetic disturbance; and human life has no other dignity than what we accord it.
Dear People of God, the potential of human life is shrouded in mystery: what is its meaning, has it an overall and over-riding purpose? Mysterious too are the essential elements of life as we experience them: what is love; how can one find happiness and peace of heart; why is life so tasteless without hope; what is justice, where is truth? Again, why do we feel, inside, that some things are wrong; and why – having done such things, even though in secret -- do we feel disturbed, ill at ease, indeed, under threat? A right awareness of and response to such mysterious questions as these are of vital importance, because both natural reason and every-day experience teach us that no amount of money can buy happiness, that worldly success or renown cannot guarantee peace of heart, nor can pleasure bring hope.
Here then, as we begin the season of Advent, we are urged by Mother Church to do some serious thinking. We are urged to look into our hearts, to sound those hidden depths that we so rarely penetrate in our everyday life and activity; for only there will we find some appreciation and understanding of the mystery of our make-up as individuals and as persons who have been made divinely special. For all of us do accept that we are special: none of us can tolerate injustice done against us, and we all hate lies and love truth as they affect our lives. Who is there that does not know that life inspires hope, while death, on the other hand, provokes despair; inexplicably, we feel ourselves made for life, even though all things else are made to die.
People of God, we Catholics are Christians -- the original and authentic Christians -- called to bring the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, to the whole world, throughout all time. And the message we are commissioned to proclaim is that Jesus is the Christ, the only answer to the mystery of human existence and human destiny: He alone can bring peace and hope into our hearts and minds, together with the strength to live and love aright both in society and as individuals. Above all, we are to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only One Who can raise us up to secure a heavenly destiny; one that will be truly ours -- in and with Jesus, by the Spirit -- a destiny before God the Father which will be the glorious and eternal fulfilment of all our possibilities, powers, and longings. Our teaching is certain and clear:
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. I and My Father are one. (John 14:6; 10:30)
How those who say, “Follow me; do what I am doing; listen to me, I know”, how such people despise their brethren! Despise? Because they dare to imagine that the miserable prospects they offer can possibly fulfil a human being: pleasure, usually basic or even animal; success, even at best, only for a pitifully short time; popularity, which, however shallow, can only be sustained by craven conformity.
Jesus, on the other hand, alone fully loves and appreciates us: He raises us to life that is eternal and love that is divine; He offers us a fulfilment that penetrates to the most mysterious depths of our human and personal make-up and character. That is why we offer our whole selves to Jesus: for example, when we marry, we offer our marriage to Jesus, that through Him our married life might serve our eternal destiny and God’s plan for the world:
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him. (Luke 10:22)
Because the Father Who calls us to Jesus has committed all things to Him, so we too, in answer to the Father’s call, draw to Jesus committing our all to Him: there is nothing secret in our lives where He cannot enter, where He does not rule. All is for Jesus, so that in Him all might be for the Father, and so that we may attain our eternal fulfilment in the glory and joy of His kingdom of truth and love. To that end we live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus brought to our remembrance by His Spirit in Mother Church, whose proclamation comes down to us through the ages in all the original fullness of its integrity and purity, and by whose sacraments, the Spirit of Jesus is sprinkled in blessing on all we do and are.
Thus will we be enabled to embrace that which is sure to come:
(You) will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.