[1st Sunday of Advent, Year C, Nov 29, 2015/ Jer 33:14-16 / Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10+14 / 1 Thess 3:12–4:2 / Luke 21:25-28, 34-36]
All things can be born patiently when liberation is close at hand. Many of the older generation here in Manila remember the moment of their liberation during the Japanese Occupation of World War II. They kept their hope alive in a difficult moment because they knew that the American armed forces were getting closer and liberation would come soon. When they were eventually liberated it was an experience of great joy and freedom.
Have you ever been liberated? Once I went to celebrate Mass and afterwards had to organize a moment of Eucharistic adoration. I was not so familiar with the rite, especially the part in Latin and I had to ask for help. I felt liberated! Liberated from the idea that I should already know everything, freed from my concern about what others might think. What is liberation all about? Ask William Wallace and he would cry out “Freedom!” Is there anything that you need to be freed from?
Once we went to a prison on a pastoral visit. The prison was enormously overcrowded. In a room the size of a tennis court there were perhaps 250 men living. So tightly packed that not all could lie down and sleep at the same time such that they had two shifts and took it in turns to sleep while the other group stood standing. In the prison the prisoners gave us such a warm welcome, dancing, singing and cheering that I reflected that they seemed very “free!” Many times we are imprisoned in ourselves, in small concerns and worries. Many times we are held captive by fears but the Spirit desires our freedom.
In the moments of difficulties and trials, when it seems that the world will collapse we should know that “our liberation is close at hand.” The Lord is near – have no anxiety at all. In the gospel one interpretation of the apocalyptic end times with the sun falling, the moon becoming darkened is the situation of a humanity that suffers. “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” But in these moments what is the advice of the Lord? “But when these signs begin to happen, stand firm and raise your heads because your liberation is at hand.” What do we need to stand firm in the moment of trial? Courage and faith! Once St Paul wrote to the community in Greece and said, “Always be courageous” – not just sometimes but ALWAYS. Later he said, “do not be intimidated in ANY WAY by your opponents.”
Hope, my soul, hope. The gospel today reminds us: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that 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.”
Let us be vigilant as we wait for the coming of our liberator. We close with the words of Cardinal Newman:
“They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind,
Who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him,
Who look for him in all that happens,
And who would not be surprised,
Who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed,
If they found that he was coming at once.
“This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present,
And to live in what is unseen;
To live in the thought of Christ as he came once,
And as he will come again; to desire his second coming,
From our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first.”