We have been ushered into the season of Advent with the customary apocalyptic readings. Gazing not at Christ’s first coming in our midst but straining toward the horizon for his second coming we enter into this season of preparation. But, Advent preparation is not just about planning a party towards the end of December. The expectant waiting and preparation of Advent is time to do the soul’s work of conditioning for ultimate things, because eternity is on the horizon.
Jesus occasionally entered into a mode of teaching that, unlike other uplifting passages, embodies a foreboding sense of coming trial. Indeed, we have such a reading today. Jesus points to a day when there will be an accounting; when the souls of humankind will be laid bare and truth will be made known.
If I let myself actually hear Jesus, I tremble. I know that God’s mercy and grace are aboundingly sufficient and I know that there are some things, some ways of being, some little pet sins of mine that simply cannot endure in the Kingdom of God. But I know how much I depend on them when I try to let them go.
Jesus says to hear his words and act on them. Otherwise we are like fools building on sand. The rain will fall, the floods will come, and the wind will beat on our houses. They will be tried and tested by the realities of life. One of the graces of living in our day of pandemic, climate emergency, and social and political dysfunction is that apocalypse is doing its work. In this apocalypse, literally, the lifting of the veil, the dark forces of this world and of ourselves are being revealed for what they are and we are given a chance to see where our dependencies, our trust, our foundations have been placed.
As we yearn for that day when God will set all things to right, we have the grace of time for amendment of life, to turn and return to God. And we do that in distinct acts of stopping, re-orienting, and moving forward in a new direction. In our community’s regular practice of Retreat, our Rule of Life says that “we must expect retreats to expose us to spiritual trial. We may be tempted to tire ourselves or waste the time in busy work and preparation. We may find ourselves staying on the surface to avoid an authentic meeting with the living God. And the emptiness of retreat time may compel us to face the painful signs of our need for healing that it was easier to overlook during our usual routines. So our retreat times will be opportunities to strive against everything that would discourage us from radical dependence on the love of God.”
Radical dependence on the love of God. That is the rock upon which to build a house. Not even the sweetest of the joys of this life will endure that are not founded on the love of God. Heaven and earth will pass away, say Jesus, but my word will never pass away.
If you find yourself shaken and storm-beaten, take a look around, what is the state of your foundation? Now is the time to rebuild with an eye toward eternity. Let your foundation rest firmly and securely on the love of God alone. Amen.
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