2 Dec 2007
“He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isa. 2:4) In the name …
Fr. Randy Calvo
This past week we had to have some repair work done at the rectory. It seems that a vapor barrier was left out in the wall between the bathroom shower and the outer wall of the house. Without this stuff in place, the hot wall of the shower and the cold outer wall of the house caused condensation to form inside the wall. Over the years all of this condensation-moisture eventually caused the wood and the sheet rock behind the tiling to rot and decay. Then last Friday it finally gave way, but gave way in a manner that allowed me to have a little fun at my wife’s expense. Sharon was cleaning the tiled wall of the shower last Friday, and as she’s leaning against it with one arm to balance herself, she’s using the other to wipe the tile. That’s when she went right through the wall.
Well that gave me the chance the next day to tell people that my wife got so angry she put her hand right through the wall, which was partly true. She really did put her hand through the wall, but the anger issue may have been a bit untrue. But as my mother used to say, “Randy sees things differently.” Don Skroski joined in the fun too. He’s our Parish Committee chairman. He came over to Sharon and told her that Church Mutual, our church insurance provider, was going to get her into anger management classes for only a $20 deductible. Sharon took this all in stride because I think she knows that nobody listens anymore. The reason nobody listens anymore is because they know Sharon, and I guess they know me too. They know that I like to, well, embellish some of the stories I encounter. The person trumps the story.
Today is the First Sunday of Advent. Along with beginning a brand new church year, Advent also marks the time of our waiting for the coming of Christ. The four weeks of Advent represent first and foremost the 4,000 years that according to tradition separates Adam from Jesus. It represents the time the world waited for the coming of the Messiah at Christmas. But Advent also draws attention to the teaching that we are still waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time. That’s why once again this week we share a Gospel reading that tells us not about Christmas or its preparations, but about the Last Judgment. Sometimes though these two stories can confuse each other, and when they do we need to remember that Jesus’ first coming at Christmas greatly surprised even the prophets. The person of Jesus trumped the story. If it happened then, it can happen now.
With that lesson learned from the First Coming of Christ, we need to be cautious in what we profess about the Second Coming of Christ. We need to remember that the person trumps the story. Sometimes when we talk about the Jesus of the Second Coming, He doesn’t seem at all like the Jesus of the First Coming, and the message of Advent is that they are one in the same. Sometimes the Second Coming Jesus is a bit scary. Sometimes He is so regal and judgmental that it’s hard to bring that Jesus together with the Jesus of the manger and the swaddling clothes, the accessible Jesus. That’s why Advent talks about both events under the same heading. Advent is simply from the Latin which means to come, and the coming that Advent refers to is both the coming of Christ at Christmas and the coming of Christ at the end of time. If there’s any confusion between the stories of First Coming Jesus and Second Coming Jesus, then the person trumps the story. The Jesus we know, the Jesus of humility and compassion, the Jesus born in an animal’s manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes because there was no place for them at the inn, the person who walked this world giving His time to the sick, the outcast, the forgotten, this person trumps the story. If there’s any confusion between the Jesus of the First Coming and the Jesus of the Second Coming, we have to favour the first because the person trumps the story.
This doesn’t mean that Isaiah was wrong when he tells us of his vision. It does mean that his vision was of the end time not of Christmas-time. The prophet would have been surprised by Christmas; and so if it can happen to a prophet of God, it can happen to us. The images I see and the messages I hear of the Jesus of the Second Coming are not so much about comforting as they’re about convicting. This may give some degree of satisfaction to the ones who preach this way because they’re among the saved, but it completely ignores the plight of all the others, and this is the opposite message of the Jesus of Bethlehem. And the person trumps the story.
The world is full of religious, judgmental people, and they have not made this a better place to live. They have made it darker. Advent is a time of increasing light. That’s the symbolism of the Advent wreath. Each week closer to Christmas more and more light is added, culminating with the lighting of the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve. At the Shepherds’ Mass the light of that candle is then shared with everyone in the congregation. As religious people we need to carry that light out into the world. We need to counter the darkness of religious fear and ignorance. We need to show that the coming of Christ, first and second, is about a caring God. That’s the message of the person that trumps the story. That’s the message that can fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of peace: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) Let us pray that our faith in the First Coming Christ and the way we live that faith may lead us to the fulfillment of this prophecy of the Second Coming Christ, so that all confusion between the two is removed. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In the name …