Father Donald Senior, CP

In the days to come

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Perspectives on Scripture

Nov. 27: First Sunday of Advent
Is 2:1-5; Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6- 7, 8-9; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37- 44

The word “advent” derives from the Latin word to “approach” or “draw near.” So what is coming toward us? For one thing, the Gospel of Matthew.

The first Sunday of Advent is officially the start of a new liturgical year and that means we turn from Luke to Matthew for the Sunday readings this coming year. Matthew is a powerful Gospel, filled with the strong teaching of Jesus and highlighting his deep Jewish roots.

But Advent anticipates more than simply the shift in the lectionary’s Gospel selections. On one level, Advent invites us to think, of course, of the approaching Christmas season when we will celebrate the joy of Christ’s birth, an event whose coming changed the world forever. But the Scripture readings for today point to another horizon for us to consider, namely that of our final destiny both as individuals and as a human family as a whole.

What is our ultimate future, the Scriptures ask us, and what difference does that ultimate future make for us now in our everyday lives?

The Bible has a “linear” sense of time. Time for the Bible is not an endless circle of repetitions but the whole of human existence. The whole created world, has a beginning and an end. The Scriptures believe that God had a purpose in creating the world and filling it with life, particularly human life. The book of Genesis affirms that we are made “in the image and likeness of God,” and that our destiny, as mysterious as it might seem to us as mortals, is to ultimately be one with God in peace and endless love.

Glimpses of what that future entails are found throughout the Bible. Today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah is one such “paradise” vision. It foresees a final chapter of history — “in days to come” — when the nations of the world will converge in peace on “the mountain of the Lord.” It will be time when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and … spears into pruning hooks” and they “shall not train for war again.” We can imagine that this is a future vision desperately longed for by the people of Iraq and Syria today.

Advent is a time when we are asked to align our lives in accord with the future we long to see. This is what Paul urges the Christians to do in the passage we hear today from his letter to Romans: “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” “It is,” he acclaims, “the hour now for you to awake from sleep … for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

Paul’s use of the metaphor of “being awake” and living in the “light” is echoed in Jesus words to his disciples in the Gospel selection from Matthew. This is taken from the so-called “apocalyptic” discourse near the end of the Gospel where Jesus, too, speaks about the destiny of the world and tells his disciples to “stay awake” and “be prepared” for the coming of the Son of Man.

Here is another dimension of Advent — not only preparing for the celebration of Christmas, not only considering from time to time our ultimate destiny with God, but also being prepared for those unanticipated moments of grace that break into our everyday lives and offer us a chance to live our lives more deeply and with greater integrity.


  • scripture