Reflection for the 1st Sunday Advent, Year C. 2018
– By Fr Ugo Ikwuka
Happy New Year everybody!
Today, the First Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Church’s 3rd Liturgical Year which will complete the 3-year cycle of the Church.
The 2nd Liturgical Year ended last Sunday with the Feast of Christ the King. One would expect the Church’s year to start with messages of the beginnings such as the creation accounts in Genesis or the call of the disciples in the Gospels that led to the beginning of the Church.
Ironically, our readings this Sunday are continuation of the scary “end time” messages that closed the last liturgical year. However, as life is a journey, it makes sense that one determines where one is going before one sets off.
In the Gospel, Jesus declares that there will be “signs in the sun and moon and stars…. The powers of the world would be shaken and then they would see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
As we closed the past liturgical year, we read these apocalyptic end time prophecies from the Book of Daniel. In the 2nd Chapter of the Book, the King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream about a statue that was made of variety of substances; head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron and feet partly iron and partly of clay. Suddenly, a mysterious stone came down and shattered the statue.
The young Jewish lad, Daniel, who was gifted with interpreting dreams was summoned and he confidently explained that the statue in its four segments of different substances stands for kingdoms that will be destroyed in succession until they are succeeded by a kingdom established by God Himself.
The message was later reinforced in a dream which Daniel himself had (Chapter 7) where four beasts emerged from the sea as God, the Ancient of Days, sat on His throne with thousands ministering to Him. The four beasts had their power and dominion taken from them as Daniel saw “one like the Son of Man, coming from the clouds of heaven. He arrives at the thrown of the Ancient of Days and is given dominion, power and glory and then is told that all nations will serve him.”
By the time Jesus came on the scene during the Roman Empire, preaching the arrival of the Kingdom of God, the empires of Babylon, Persia and Greece had all fallen in succession.
Recall that during his passion, the High Priest had put a direct question to him: “Are you the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God” And Jesus replied: “I am and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” He is directly affirming that the prophecy of Daniel (Chapter 7) has come to fulfilment; the successive fall of kingdoms made by human hands and the arrival of a kingdom not made by human hands, a dominion that would last forever.
Friends, the idea that we can make things work if only we could find the right socio-cultural and economic equation is a myth that has been with us through the ages. This has been the philosophy behind the rise of empires and civilisations.
Following the successive falls of the Babylonian, Persian and Greek Empires, the first two centuries of the Roman Empire prospered with profound influence on the development of language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law, art, literature, politics and government. But under successive depraved emperors, the Roman Empire became corrupted, bringing untold misery including the brutal persecution and massacre of early Christians. Eventually, it collapsed to the moral and political contradictions within its own system and deteriorated into centuries of disorder and chaos known as the Dark Ages.
Thereafter, explorers from Europe: England, France, Portugal, Spain made the in-roads into the “new world” (the Americas and Oceana), and sub-Saharan Africa that eventually paved the way for colonization and missionary work.
These came with their civilization which is evident, for instance, in the flourishing Western education and Christian faith in these climes today. Yet, these brought with them some ills too. For instance, while the missionaries demonized and undermined many traditional values, the colonialists exploited, balkanized and amalgamated groups and ‘nation states’ to their convenience.
Many other ideologies also emerged in response to the human problem e.g. communism evolved as a good-intentioned social revolution that would end human suffering and ensure the welfare of all. Eventually, it rather ended millions of lives as it metamorphosed into the most oppressive tyranny.
World bodies such as the United Nations have also been set up to promote justice and peace. Ironically, the key stakeholders in the union are the ones that breach its peace accords. In fact, of the 3600 years of recorded history, there have only been 286 years of peace. During the time, roughly 8000 peace treaties have been made and all of them have been broken in one way or another. Over 14,000 wars have taken place, with an estimated death toll of 3.6 billion people.
The “end time” message we read today is therefore resoundingly clear; we should not count on any of the passing powers of this world to give us lasting security and peace. Such peace will come only with the arrival of God’s kingdom – the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.
This kingdom is present in the mission of the Church which is defined by Christ himself who comes in the “clouds” of incense in our liturgies; a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace”.
Christ assured that he would be with his Church until the end of time (Mt. 28:20) and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18).