Jesus is coming soon
A reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, Year C
by Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann
If you’re asking, “What’s up with all these readings about doom and destruction?” and “Didn’t we just hear this Gospel two weeks ago?” I’m glad you asked…
Two weeks ago we heard the same exact passage – except it was from the Gospel of Mark. Today it’s from the Gospel of Luke – we’re now in Year C, so we’re reading the Gospel of Luke. Why do we have two Sundays with a very similar message so close together? Why are we speaking about the end of time? Well, Jesus is not; if you want to be literal, he’s speaking about the destruction of the Second Temple.
In the first reading we hear Jeremiah giving hope to the people of Israel who were exiled in Babylon. He had warned them what would happen if they didn’t change their ways. But they didn’t listen; they didn’t think the end would come any time soon, and bad things happened: the First Temple was destroyed and they were all exiled. Now Jeremiah tries to encourage them with a message of hope: Things will get better, the Messiah will come soon.
In a way, St. Paul is doing something similar in the second reading from the 1st Letter to the Thessalonians. Paul expected the second coming to be imminent. Paul is exhorting them and giving them advice as to what to do while they wait. But some didn’t think the return of Christ would be any time soon, so they weren’t listening.
It’s likely that the people at the time that Luke was writing his Gospel were also not listening. By then the Second Temple (and most of Jerusalem) had been destroyed by the Romans and most Jews were either killed or exiled. Still, 50 years later, after all that disaster and destruction, it was hard for early Christians to believe that Christ was returning any time soon.
So Luke has Jesus tells us about these “ends of times” to remind us not to become complacent.
Jesus says that when we see these signs we will know that our redemption is at hand. The signs are death and destruction. But there has been disaster and destruction everywhere since Cain and Abel. There’s disaster and destruction today – we don’t have to wait for the “end of the world”. Today we are still in the midst of a pandemic; there are still COVID-19 patients in hospitals and there are still COVID-19 deaths. Today there are people dying in Afghanistan, in Nicaragua, and in so many places around the world. Every day, in every major city in the world people are murdered; every day someone dies in a tragic accident. Every day children are being abused, neglected, and abandoned by the same adults who should love and protect them. Today there are marriages breaking up and people losing their jobs. Today there are people being diagnosed with cancer and other terminal diseases. Today there are famines, starvation, droughts, floods, earthquakes, wars… we don’t have to wait until the end of the world.
The signs are here; they’ve always been here: Our redemption is at hand.
Are we ready? I don’t think we are. We’re too busy being selfish and worrying about our own little petty needs. Jesus says, when you see these signs – that’s all the time – we need to be alert. The Son of Man may come when you least expect it and we’re asleep, complacent. But we comfort ourselves, like the people in Jeremiah’s time and the Thessalonians, that the Messiah is not really coming any time soon.
But the good news is that Jesus is not coming next week, or next month. He’s not coming next year or even in 10 years. The Good News is that Jesus is coming imminently, today, anywhere Mass is being celebrated.
And how will we receive Him? Jesus tells us, “Stand up straight with your heads held high.” We’re going to come up, standing up straight, with our heads held high. We are going to come up with extreme reverence. We’re going to look up – don’t look down like you’re being punished. Look up at Him whom you are about to receive. And we’re going to respond, AMEN. Don’t say it before the priest says, “The body of Christ” – say it as a response. That means, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are present. Yes, Lord, I want to receive you. Yes, Lord, I am ready to receive you.”
This is something we need to remember today and every day of the year. We need to remember this every time we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist. We have to remember it even if we are not able to receive the Eucharist. But especially, we have to remember it during Advent when we are preparing our hearts for Christmas. Because Advent is not just a preparation for the birthday of Jesus. Advent is a preparation for the coming of Christ.
And the signs are here. He’s coming very soon. Are you ready?
The readings for the First Sunday of Advent, Year C, are
1 Thessalonians 3:12–4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann is a Producer at Salt + Light Media and a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Toronto.