Make for a Brighter Future

11-28-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend we begin a new church religious year. Our year is based upon telling the story of Jesus Christ Our Savior. In a sense, we begin at the beginning and end at the end when everything has been said. To begin telling the story we need to back up a bit before the actual birth at Bethlehem. Thus, we have four weeks called Advent to help us get to the story of Christ's birth and its meaning in our lives. The readings of this weekend help us by focusing us on the future. They, in fact, invite us to rejoice, even in the face of our times and situations, because we know that God will not fail us. They strongly encourage us to plan for the future, because we believe that God will not dash our hopes. They greatly encourage us to strive and work for the promise of a better tomorrow, because we are absolutely convinced that on this very day and every day God is fulfilling His promises and acting on our behalf. We believe that the "Son of Man" is coming and has come. Our great hope and the way we live can make for a brighter future for all who seek him.

All three readings this weekend remind us that time has an ending, a terminus. We do not like to think about this truth, but it is there in front of us. Our readings also warn us about dark days in the future, but they also tell us that there are bright rays of hope

Jeremiah is writing his message just before the total destruction of Jerusalem when the Jews were at their darkest moment in centuries. They were broken and confused. Jeremiah offers them consolation and hope. The prophet turns the eyes of the people to a day of brightness. The great prophet declares that a shoot shall sprout and flourish even as their enemies plough them under the earth. Jeremiah tells them that God will shield them even if they are defenseless, that God's promises will be fulfilled and that God's justice, which is beyond understanding, will prevail.

Paul in our second reading encourages all to live in hope. Saint Paul calls on God to ground us solidly in justice and to be blameless against whatever might come. He tells us that God invites us to leave our self-centeredness and enter into a relationship with God and other people. Conducting ourselves "to please God," simply means being a people of hope, a people living in a just relationship with God and others, so that we will be ready for the "coming of our Lord Jesus."

Our Gospel writer Luke presents Jesus as prophesying the end times and also his coming again. He tells us that signs and wonders will accompany the end times and that worry and anxiety will result. Jesus, however, exhorts hope. Jesus tells us not to run away and hide, but to hold up our heads high in attention and anticipation of the coming of justice and salvation. Notice that the Gospel passage begins with images of cosmic chaos but ends with a scene of self-possession and confidence in God.

Our three readings this weekend lift us up. They invite us to have an attentive joyfulness about ourselves, an attitude that is solidly rooted in the knowledge and faith that Jesus has already won salvation for us, and that the Messiah is already among us.