Now that we are in the final stretch of the liturgical year (the first day of the new liturgical year is the first Sunday of Advent, which is Nov. 27), the Church gives us readings that speak to what the Second Coming of Jesus will be like. The first reading in the daily mass lectionary for the upcoming week will be excerpts from the Book of Revelation. I find speaking about the Seconding Coming of Jesus, or the Parousia (from the Greek meaning “arrival”), evokes mixed emotions.
The Parousia frighten us with the events associated with the end time: wars, famine, and disease. Or, they confirm a fatalistic surrender to the current status quo full of wars, famine, and disease. Rarely do Christians hear about the Second Coming and feel hope. I think the message of the readings is meant to be one of hope, rather than fear or surrender.
In our Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus foretells the horrible events that will occur before the Son of Man comes. The early Christians will be persecuted. The known world for Jesus’ disciples would erupt into war. For Luke’s audience, they would have experienced already being thrown out of the synagogues and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The point of the story was not to tell them already what has happened, but it was for them to find hope in Jesus no matter what was to come next.
Where the world stage, or take the state of our hearts, becomes bleak, there Jesus wants to come into the world. While we wait for Jesus to come again, we are meant to be people of joyful hope. From a place of hope we respond to the evils in our social structures and the root of sins in our hearts. We ask God to renew our hope when it is challenged by the suffering we experience in the world.
What do the stories about Jesus’ Second Coming mean to me? Do I live with a hope that springs from faith in the Lord? When have I last felt a sustaining moment for my hope in God?