1st Advent [C] 2003

Fr. Charles Irvin

Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28,34-36

In our yearly cycles of living this part of the year calls us to deal with time, time in its many levels and dimensions. For example, we have just adjusted our clocks from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time. The day when night is longest and daylight is shortest will soon come upon us, and do so just before Christmas time. New Year’s Day is not far away, the day when our measurement of time’s passing will add another year. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s we will all feel a critical shortage of time, many times remarking “I just don’t have enough time.”

Time measures duration of activities and seasons; it measures the passing of things as well as the coming of things. Time is one of the dimensions of reality in which we live. We measure things by it as well as measuring material objects by length, height, depth, weight, density and so forth. The cycles of nature and our own bodily cycles are seen and dealt with in time’s dimension.

There are favorable times, appropriate times, bad times, good times, moments when we’re having “the times of our lives”, moments when we’re having dreaded times, as well as living out our lives in our allotted times. Then, too, there are epochs, eras and historical times, the time of humankind, and our own personal, significant time either alone or with others.

Into all of this comes God – God in cosmic time, God’s timelessness intersecting with our finite human time. This introduces us to time sanctified, sacred time, the time when God, faithful to His promises to us, comes to us, invading our world and our time in order to present Himself to us in what the bible refers to as “the fullness of time.”

Our Church immerses us in God’s time by celebrating what is known as the Liturgical Year, taking us into the levels and dimensions of time in order to help us see God’s approach to us, His advent to us. “See,” Mother Church tell us, “God has come to us, is coming to us each day, right now, and will come to us.” What God has done, He is doing now, and will always do even though we, here on earth, are proceeding toward the “End Times.”

                        “The day of God is not one day,
                         an historical moment, never to return.
The day of God is forever,
                          forever living, without night, without sleep.”

Seeing reality in sacred time, “in those days” as the bible states it one way, or “in the fullness of time” as it puts it another way… seeing reality in sacred time releases us from the prison of cynicism. Cynicism tells us that “nothing is new,” “that’s the way it’s always been,” and that what has been will be again. Cynicism tels us “what has been done will be done again, and always done.” Cynicism offers us nothing but dreary monotony. 

Cosmic time, God’s time, continually and tirelessly offers us fresh starts, new beginnings, and God’s repeated invitation to us, inviting us to see all things newly, to repent, be done with our past ways, and start over again in newness of life.

Mother Church constantly reminds us that we live in that intermediate time, the time between our Messiah’s arrival “in the fullness of time” two-thousand years ago in Bethlehem and His future return to us in the Last Days at the end of the world. We live in the “already but not yet” time of Christ’s coming to us.

The Lord’s prayer, we should notice, is a “now” prayer. All of its aspects deal with who we are and what we should be doing now, here on earth as it is in heaven. The Holy Spirit’s activities are present to us now. Our present daily lives have consequences, meaning and purpose because what we do now shapes and determines our future. The content of our lives here on earth is a content we will take with us into the next life.

Advent, then, has a triple dimension for us – past, present and future. But our important focus is on the present. It is important to remember what God has promised and done in the past, and it is important to rely on the promises of God for our future. But past and future can only be seen and understood in the present. We do now what we do because of the past. We do now what we do because of the future we face. But it both past and future that ought to guide and shape what we do now.

Where, then, are we looking for the advent of God to us? Where, when and how are we looking for God’s approach to us? Indeed, are we looking at all?

Circumstances, the signs of the times, and coincidences are all those moments when God’s cosmic order and time tangentially touches our own human time and disordered world. If we do not have eyes to see and ears to hear, if we have spiritual lives that are flat and malnourished, we will fail to see the advent of God. The noise and cacophony of this world will continue to hold us in deafness and we will not hear that “still, inner voice” in which {and through which} God’s Holy Spirit reaches us.

Thus it was that thousands of years ago, King David, a man very much of this world and caught up by this world, was, by the grace of God, given the chance to see the advent of God and to sing of it in one of his psalms. In Psalm 25 we hear:

To you I life up my soul,
O Lord, my God. 
Yours ways, O Lord, make known to me;
teach me your paths.

Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,

and for you I wait all day.

Good and upright is the Lord;

thus he shows sinners the way.

He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.

The days of the Lord are here – let us go out, therefore, to meet Him.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”