The bet you don't want to make

Tom Bartolomeo
1st Sunday Advent C 2012
Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Psalm 25;
Thessalonians 3: 12-4:2;
Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
Reproduced with Permission

I commiserate with any of you who may have lost the mega millions lottery bet last Friday. Sadly, no one in Illinois won it big. Someone in Missouri and Arizona did. As the prophet Hosea commented, such hopes and dreams "disappear . . . like the morning dew", Hosea 13:3. It would be far, far worse, however, to gamble on our salvation hoping we could escape the tribulations which Christ spoke of in today's gospel:

Beware that your hearts do not grow drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and and the anxieties of daily life, that the day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 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.

Still some may think, Chances are they will escape the actual day of tribulation. It hasn't happened since Jesus warned us 2,000 years ago. But that does not take into account the state of our souls at death before the final coming of Christ. So why ( this first Sunday of Advent, three weeks and two days before Christmas ) are we considering these supposedly imminent tribulations at some future time in today's gospel? Christ's birth preceded his second coming, and we and many others, billions of people, were not there although we will be there, the living and the dead together, when Son of God comes again in all his glory in judgement of the world.

At his birth and his final coming Scripture attests that, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever", Hebrews 13: 8. ( Must be that God doesn't age ). Jesus' birth and first coming coincide in a single reality, not two, as our hope of rebirth at his second coming. For Christ's advent his first journey to death for our redemption precedes his second coming for our rebirth, we pray, in eternity.

For many others in this world Christmas is nothing more than Santa Claus, Rudolph and Frosty the snowman, a Christmas tree, a party and drinks all around. For us it celebrates the birth of our Savior and our brotherhood in Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who chose to destroy death and sin in us as long as we are able to endure the tribulation "now and at the hour of our death" which we pray for from the Mother of God.

At mass when we say, "Therefore, as we celebrate the memorial of his Death and Resurrection, we offer you, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation"--we remember what Christ commanded us at the last supper, "Do this in memory of me" without which we can not receive his saving life and grace. Reason enough that we keep holy the Sabbath and worship together at Sunday mass. The only time Jesus had specifically told us to remember anything. It is that important. The tribulation we suffer requires a "willing spirit" within a "weak flesh" and the attention deficit syndrome we endure, cf. Mark 14, 38. With so much on our mind, at home, on the job, worry and anxiety about one thing or another - this homily may be forgotten by the time you make a lane change while driving home.

As we begin Advent I would suggest a new frame of mind for this season of promise, a simplified sense of time in the manner of Jesus Christ. Jesus also had much on his mind before his final entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion, but still managed to instruct his disciples that "the Light is with you" [ referring to himself ] "for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you . . . while you have the light, believe in the light", John 12, 35-36. On the night of his arrest Jesus told his bewildered Apostles: "a little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see me", John 16:16. For Jesus, "a little while" encompassed the entire sequence of his death, resurrection, ascension into heaven and descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, more than eighty days' duration, an experience he later reduced to an "hour" when Jesus spoke of our salavation:

When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a child is born into the world, John 16, 21-24.

The Apostle, Peter, years later understood and repeated Jesus' admonition to wait "a little while" for "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance which is imperishable . . . kept in heaven for you . . . ready to be revealed to you in the last time", Christ's Second Coming, 1 Peter 1, 3-5. Peter later described these concurrence of events like watching a "lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rise in your hearts." Compared to eternity our lives can truly be understood as one day, "a little while", waiting for the night to pass and the rising of "the morning star" before dawn and the final Advent of Jesus Christ.

Our dark world is filled with so many empty meaningless distractions especially during this season. Within our souls we should continuously focus on the "lamp shining in a dark place", however long or short a day it may be, knowing that the light in the distance increases the closer we approach our end day and pray "that the day [not] catch you by surprise like a trap." Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist in a single moment prophetically anticipated the advent of Christ and learned that his son, not yet born, would "be called the prophet of the Most High". When Zechariah proclaimed, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel" he foresaw the coming of our "savior" as did his father's fathers, Abraham, himself and finally to his son who would "be called the prophet of the Most High" and exclaimed that,

The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace, Luke 1: 68-79.

The poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, described the morning light of Christ in a similar fashion,

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil crushed...
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings, God's Grandeur.

"Be vigilant at all times", Children. For in "a little while" the Light and Judge of the world is coming again.