by Sr. Carol J. Crater, SHF
Last week we celebrated the solemnity of Christ Our Lord, King of the Universe. We pictured that celebration on the front of our worship aid with a photo from the Hubble space telescope showing the oldest, most distant galaxies of the universe. This week we get in touch with our Advent longing for Christ Our Lord to show himself on earth as King of the universe. How can we picture that?
In November, the Holy Family Sisters gathered to celebrate our founding, and as part of the event, we had a speaker who talked of the Great Turning, a movement, a dream, a hope that the earth is in the beginnings of a turning:
turning from a society which finds its meaning in economic growth to
a society which is life sustaining;
turning from a Western idealization of rugged individualism to a deep realization of our interdependence
turning from progress and development at any cost, to respect and replenishment of Earth’s life support systems
and turning from wanton waste and consumption of earth’s resources,
to structures and ways of doing things that sustain and
Certainly a new consciousness is beginning to grow, and individuals all over the world are beginning this Great Turning toward more life-centered values. But what about the big picture?
Advent asks us to look at the big picture, Christ not only as my personal king, but as King of the Universe; that’s a Really Big Picture! I have been struck lately by two sets of images or pictures on television:
the selling of merchandise for Christmas, where stocking stuffers get bigger and more expensive every year (remember when we used
to get apples, oranges, walnuts, candies and cheap little toys?)
the waiting and hoping of those who lost so much in recent floods,
not only in New York and New Jersey, but in countries around
the world: Great Britain, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, the
Philippines, China, Taiwan, Japan, Fiji.
And this year I heard something new: numbers of people who have not had a Thanksgiving dinner in many years, not because they’re poor, but because they have spent their Thanksgiving Days waiting in lines for stores to open on Black Friday. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?
How is Christ more honored, I wonder — in getting the best deal on a new computer –even if it’s a gift for someone else — or in doing something to make a difference in someone’s life, to make a difference in the world, to contribute to the common good?
I have a new baby great-niece (well, not so new — she’ll be 13 months old tomorrow), and she has changed everything. I haven’t even met her yet, but I know I want little Maggie to grow up in a world where life is valued, where peace is deep and real, where corporations don’t have more rights than people, where the earth is valued as our homeland.
I know I can’t make it happen alone. All of us here in this building today can’t make it happen alone. But lots and lots of people, great groundswells of people, can begin to push that turning until the momentum takes over. We humans are not actually in charge of the turning, any more than we are in charge of the daily turning of our earth on its axis.
In my way of looking at them, our readings today speak of “turning”:
In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her: “The Lord our justice.”
Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another
and for all.
And on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of
the sea and the waves.
Well, there are tribulations and there are tribulations; the world during the past year has known disaster after disaster, many of them water-related. Thousands of deaths have been caused by water in uproar. Thousands of deaths have been caused by politics in uproar as well. The news every day brings names to add to the death toll in our Bay Area city streets.
Throughout history people have seen “signs of the times,” and looked to the coming of Christ. We may or may not be in the “last times” today — don’t we have one popular “deadline” coming up later this month?
Whether this past year’s disasters and violence herald the last coming no one can say. But we do feel the weight of sadness, and we will be singing about it in just a few minutes. We feel the weight of sadness for those who died in water-related disasters in this past year, for those who died of illness, violence, accidents, for all our losses. If we don’t feel a weight of sadness, we’re just not paying attention.
But that sadness is part of what creates our longing for the promised Kingdom of God, and that promise of a coming Kingdom creates our hope. And that hope is what we focus on during Advent — that season of longing for what is not, and a well-founded hope in the promises of our very Present God.