Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. This is new year’s day so happy new year! I mean of course in the liturgical sense of today being the first Sunday of Advent. And like we do for the new calendar year, it is a time to make some resolutions, to begin again and to start afresh.
The Gospel today urges us to be vigilant and to stay faithful because we will stand before God in judgment much faster than we think. In the early Church, the first Christians believed very strongly that Christ would return very soon after his ascension. We find it in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation whose last words are the prayer: ‘Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus’. This hope of the Lord’s return coloured everything.
Now although this high expectation has cooled somewhat in our time, the first half of Advent in particular reminds us that this is still a very important part of our faith – namely that Christ will return one day to judge all humanity and that we must stand ready in patient faithfulness to him in the meantime.
The Gospel passage from St Luke also highlights another aspect of life that we know to be true. Namely that all things pass away and that the only thing that is permanent is God’s promises and love. Jesus’ words to us today are a bit scary – he speaks of changes in the elements, in the sun, moon and stars. At the time Jesus spoke these words, the sun, moon and stars were considered unmovable as fixed points of reference especially for seamen in ships on the seas who used the sun, moon and stars to navigate. Just before this passage, the Lord has predicted the destruction of the temple which for his Jewish hearers at the time would have seemed like the end of the world. So when Jesus predicts that all of these things will pass away, he is urging faithfulness to him and his Gospel which will never pass away.
And when we think for a while on how things also change and pass away in our time, we see the wisdom of what Jesus is saying. In the last century we saw the fall of communism and Nazism. We saw the end of colonialism and the independence of our country. We see the rise of mass migration and global warming. Also in the Church, we are living in extraordinary times where one era is ending and another beginning. There were once fixed reference points in our lives that are now no longer here.
The same is true for our own lives. The fixed reference points that we think will always be there will also pass away in time – our parents, our families, our jobs and our health. None of these will last forever.
So today as Advent begins, let us together place out last hope on what will last forever and will never change – namely God and his love, his faithfulness to us and ours to him. Stay focused on Him and his kingdom for this is what it means to stay awake and not to be distracted or deflected from what is truly important and the only thing that lasts forever.
And when we do this with God’s grace, we become confident that when we will meet the Lord face to face either after our death or when he returns to meet us, that we will be at peace before him and will welcome his judgment with joy and without fear.
Happy New Year everyone and may this Advent be a time of fixing our hearts on what lasts forever.