(Luke 21:25-28; 34-36)
This Advent we begin the Gospel of Luke, the gospel which emphasises Jesus as saviour, a fitting title for Jesus in this coming year, dedicated as it is by Pope Francis to the Mercy of God.
Today’s gospel might seem, at first glance, to be about anything but mercy, since it is one of the apocalyptic passages of the gospels. When we mention apocalyptic, we think immediately of end of world stuff and, sure enough, there is talk in the passage about “signs in the sun and moon” and “menace” and the “powers of heaven shaken.” But it is important to remember that when apocalyptic language was written, it was not about foretelling the future; it was really about the present for the people who were around at the time. In effect it was saying to them, that no matter how awful things are now – and they were awful for Christians when Luke was writing –they were not to despair, because the “Son of Man,” Jesus the saviour, was right there with them through it all.
Every age has had to face “nations in agony” “people dying of fear,” none more so than our own, with the many wars at the moment, especially in the Middle East, and the consequent flow of refugees and migrants which we are witnessing today. Added to that, talk of the “clamour of the ocean and its waves” alerts us to the signs of global warming in our world, which make us realise our great need of God’s mercy. As we begin this Advent, therefore, let us pray that we will have the true understanding of apocalyptic language: a desire, not for the end of the world, but for an end to the kind of world order which allows the global community to act in a way which continues wars and in the activity which is devastating our world. So we need to “stay awake” as the gospel asks us, so that we can “stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”
Sr. Céline Mangan, O.P.