1st Sunday of Advent (Fr. Simham)
FIX YOUR EYES ON HIM
Today is the beginning of a new liturgical year. We begin it with the season of advent. Look at the extra-ordinary message given through the readings, especially the gospel to commence the new year. We usually want to begin the year hearing a message which is somewhat soothing, pleasant and encouraging. Is it not? But what we are presented with are hard realities; doom and gloom. The gospel talks about some extra-ordinary signs in the Sun and the moon and the stars. It also says ‘Powers of the heaven will be shaken and on earth: The nations will in tumult, people will die of fear in anticipation of what was going to happen on the earth. And then the Son of man will come down in clouds.’
Now, why is the church presenting these things at the beginning of the New Year? What is the church intending to do? To understand this we need to understand the great collapses that are predicted in the gospel. First, there is a great cosmic catastrophe or great cosmic collapse that is predicted: Sun and Moon failing, and the stars-falling. What does it say? It reminds us of the sad but undeniable truth or fact that nothing is permanent. Everything is passing in the world. That is our experience too. Flowers blossom and they fade; Animals are born and they die. So also we human. We come and we go. ‘We live out our years like one [long] sigh. (Ps.90:9)’ says the psalmist. Sun and Moon will go and the stars will go. So everything in the cosmos will pass away and the Cosmos itself will pass away. Nothing in the world of nature is permanent. We are reminded of this first.
Secondly there is prediction of political chaos. ‘Nations will be in tumult’ predicts Jesus in the Gospel. History proves that nations have always been in tumult and peace was always an interval between the acts in the play. For those of you who lived through greater part of the last century (20th century) will know that nations were always at war: I World War, II world war, Iraqi war and so on. Even now nations are in tumult. None of the political views or parties were or are able bring peace or maintain peace in the world. War, terrorism, violence and bloodshed have always been there. So cosmic order as well as political order; both fall and both fail. That is their nature. And this is the message of the gospel today.
Now having said that, what it has got to do with our new year? What we need to do if this is what reality is: That nothing is permanent. Do we need to fall into depression and start not believing in anything? No…. no… no…. That is not the message of the gospel. But the message is or the liberating truth that is contained in the gospel is this: “Nothing here on earth is lasting; the things in the sky, the things on the earth, or even the things in your body; nothing lasts. Therefore don’t look to find ultimate fulfillment in any of these things.
The problem we have today is that we seek to find our fulfillment in these worldly things and in these world -orders. Some try to seek stability or fulfillment of their lives in the nature or cosmic order. (Evolution, science etc) Some try to find fulfillment in political order (Marxists, communists, Democrats, conservatives etc). And some others find fulfillment in bodily order. (Fitness and exercise). But they are all not lasting. By saying this Gospel is not saying that nature is bad or politics is bad or body is bad. But what it is saying is this. “Be keenly aware of how passing these worldly things are. Even if you love them and savour them, realize how passing they are.
Jesus says after all this collapse; he will be coming in the clouds. This was how the first Christians looked at him. He is not another prophet or holy man but he is that one power of God, God incarnate who in the midst of all that is passing will be everlasting. He is the one who can make that connection with the eternal order and peace.
So at the beginning of this new liturgical year, what the church is saying to you and me is: “Do not fix your eyes on the things of nature, Do not fix your eyes on the political powers, Do not even fix your eyes on the fleeting life of the body, but keep your eyes fixed on the Son of Man, Jesus. He is the one who is lasting in this changing world. Watch him, wait for him and find your peace in him. That is advent. Amen”
Fr. Showreelu Simham