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The First Sunday of Advent
November 28, 2021

Watch this homily! (Begins at 35:22)

    Two Sundays ago, we got some very vivid, apocalyptic imagery in the readings. Today’s gospel brings us more. A lot more: signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, roaring seas, the nations in deep dismay, the very powers of heaven shaken and people dying of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world.

     I had an opportunity two Sundays ago to comment on the way Mark presented the Last Days in his gospel. Today we got Luke’s version and, to be honest, I don’t find it all that different. Maybe you won’t be surprised, then, when I tell you that I’m fresh out of ideas when it comes to that gospel!

     So, rather than repeat myself, I decided to let someone else give me a hand with the preaching today. The ‘someone else’ is a woman by the name of Michelle Francl-Donnay. This little reflection of hers appears in this month’s issue of Give Us This Day. She’s a wife and a mother, a professor of chemistry, and an adjunct scholar at the Vatican Observatory. Not bad credentials! These are her words:

     “Once, in a midst of a raging storm, I stood on a promontory overlooking the strait through which Lake Huron pours into Georgian Bay. The water below me heaved like a living thing, a gray, writhing serpent hissing and spitting foam. The rain poured down, the wind ripped my voice away. I was stunned at the power that swirled around me, that in an instant could have swept me away. Terrified, I bolted back to safety.

     “Today’s gospel, with its description of roaring seas and shifting stars, makes me wonder if I have courage enough to pray for the Kingdom to come. Morning and night, as I pray the Lord’s Prayer, the words rise blithely enough to my lips – ‘thy kingdom come’ – but am I willing to face the terrifying signs and howling waves that will herald the kingdom’s coming?

     “Yet here I stand at the edge of Advent praying for the resolve to run forth into the wind and raging waves, praying for the grace to seek out Christ…as the Son of Man coming clothed in power and glory, but also coming in lowly signs completely devoid of power and glory. “Thy kingdom come” is a reckless prayer, one that insists that I lift my eyes from my own cares and anxieties. It is a prayer that looks to the far distant horizon of the Second Coming, yes, but which also demands that I wade into the churning seas of the present day to stand as a beacon of justice for those battered by oppression, to reach out with mercy to those struggling to keep their heads above troubled, swirling waters. It is a call not to safety, but to shake up the world until that day when God’s kingdom does at last come. In glory!”

     “To shake up the world.” That’s a bold thought and, to use the words of the little reflection, a reckless one, but it’s a good way of describing what we sign up for every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, every time we pray those seemingly innocuous and all-too-familiar words, “Thy Kingdom come.” And, as the writer suggests, to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom is not just to pray about the distant future. The coming of God’s kingdom, God’s reign or rule, began in power with the preaching and ministry of Jesus, and it continues with our embracing his gospel, living his gospel: our efforts to advocate for justice, to be healers like Jesus, with our compassionate care for the poor and marginalized – those who (again in the words of that little reflection) struggle to keep their heads above troubled, swirling waters. And they are all around us, aren’t they!

       There’s a delightful little book called Children’s Letters to God that I pick up once-in-a-while for a smile. One of the letters came to mind as I reflected on today’s scriptures. It’s written by a little girl who, I guess you could say, is long on urgency if a bit short on grammar. Her letter goes like this: “Dear God, are you real? Some people don’t not believe it. If you are, you’d better do something quick!”

       Well, my friends, God is real, and God is doing something quick even if it seems to be taking a long time. This very minute, God is, in fact, using the likes of you and me to answer that prayer, “thy kingdom come”: to bring about his reign whose roots are in the now – in our present efforts and energies - but whose full realization is at a time known only to God, that day when, in the words of today’s gospel, we will “stand secure before the Son of Man.”

       Our sharing now in the Eucharistic meal is a foretaste of that day, a promise of the full-flowering of the kingdom whose coming we pray for so often and so earnestly, the kingdom of holiness and grace, the kingdom of justice, love, and peace, the kingdom where God will be all in all!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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