Click here if you don’t see subscription options
John R. DonahueNovember 25, 2000

In a recent issue of Natural History, the astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, wrote, If the events that span the 15 billion year timeline of the universe were laid along the length of a football field, then all of human history would span the thickness of a blade of grass in the end zone, and the denouement is the still uncertain fate of the universe. As a new liturgical cycle begins, the first Sunday of Advent again reminds us that our lives are caught up in a cosmic drama and that history will end with the return of Christ and the redemption of humanity.

While the Bible does not teach science, and the diverse images of the end time should not be interpreted literally, Luke and Paul urge that Christians live not only looking back to what Christ has done for them, but should live with an eye toward the future. Despite the emphasis throughout his Gospel on the joyful benefits of God manifest in Jesus, in this apocalyptic section Luke’s Jesus is more concerned about negative behavior: carousing, drunkenness, concern for the anxieties of daily life. Jesus here virtually paraphrases the Lord’s Prayer in asking for God’s protection in the time of trial. Paul, who when writing 1 Thessalonians expected Jesus to return in his lifetime, is more positive. He prays that while waiting, his community may abound in love for one another and for all, strengthen their hearts and conduct yourselves to please God.

All of us know how a coming major event, such as a wedding, a graduation, visits from friends or an examination, can shape our lives. These readings and Advent’s stress on the second coming, as we prepare to celebrate the first coming of Jesus in history, remind us that Christians should shape their faith in terms of hopes as well as of memories. Jeremiah promises a time when Jerusalem will be secure and the people will call the Lord our justice. In a world where peace and justice seem so impossible to achieve, Advent tells us that even in the face of suffering and death we must never let hope die, and that by expressing our hope in love for one another we will create a portion of the promised future.

The latest from america

May 22, 2022, the Sixth Sunday of Easter: In order to receive the Easter peace Jesus gives, we must cooperate with the work of the Spirit.
Jaime L. WatersMay 13, 2022
May 15, 2022, the Fifth Sunday of Easter: Jesus adds to the command to love one another “as I have loved you,” calling us to service.
Jaime L. WatersMay 06, 2022
May 8, 2022, the Fourth Sunday of Easter: The metaphor of Jesus as shepherd and his followers as sheep also offers a framework for their relationship.
Jaime L. WatersMay 02, 2022
May 1, 2022, the Third Sunday of Easter: By encountering the risen Jesus, the disciples strengthen their relationship with him and prepare for their own missionary work in light of the resurrection.
Jaime L. WatersApril 22, 2022