Additional Resource Material for this Sunday
Ideal for catechetical and liturgical dramatization of today's gospel.
1st Sunday of Advent (Cycle B)
A New Heaven
In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke there are a series of discourses made by Jesus regarding the catastrophe awaiting the world. These are the so-called “eschatological” (about the end) or “apocalyptic” discourses (about the revelation of the end). These have been read traditionally as a detailed description of everything that will happen at the end of the world. These texts have also traditionally been employed to sow terror, to scare the innocent or come up with simplistic interpretations of catastrophes or wars presently taking place in the world.
Jesus did not give any details about life beyond, about heaven, the angels or even the devil, as was customary in the apocalyptic language of his period.
Neither did he make any calculations about the end of the world. He avoided making a description of the different stages of the apocalyptic drama.
Whenever reference is made in the gospel to these aspects, we can safely say that these have been the thoughts of the primitive communities of the Church.
In like manner, Jesus hardly spoke about death, and when he spoke of the resurrection (Mk 12:18-27) he ended up with an admission that God is not a God of the dead but of the living. Jesus lived with this hope and died with this faith.
If Jesus is God’s messenger of the good news and he seeks life, then these evangelical texts must also be read from this perspective. Jesus speaks not of the end but of the beginning, not of destruction but of birth, not of death but of life. In order to highlight this positive and encouraging aspect, the whole episode centers on a description of childbirth. For a new being to be born into this world, time, love, patience, hope and at the final moment, effort and tremendous pain are necessary. This is the best image of what “the end of the world” will be like: a new creation, a new society of new human beings. To think of the end of the world is to think of the day of ultimate justice, the day when God will finally render an accounting of history, the day this “new heaven and earth where justice dwells” shall become a reality (2 P 13). The word of God tells us that at the end of the world, there will be no more tears, sorrows and death. All that is good in the world will remain and be transformed. There are several prophetic texts describing the future we are heading for, with images of joy and feasting. These apocalypses (revelations of the future) are identified with Messianic times and, in the language of the gospel, with the Day of the Kingdom of God. In these texts, we see beautiful images of the end of the world (Is 60:1-22; 62:1-12; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 4:1-5; Zep 3:14-20; Rev 21:1-18; 22:1-21).
While there is certainly rejoicing, there is also pain, which will be the road that will bring us to the day of justice. Liberation is a conquest; happiness has a high price, the freedom that God has given to people continuously puts obstacles along the road of life. Through images, the prophets also spoke of God’s wrath against the unjust and the oppressors on the day of reckoning. They spoke of wars, sorrows and innumerable hardships. About two hundred years before Christ, cosmic images (falling stars, trembling earth, etc.) were used, and these were symbols also used by Jesus, since they were most common during his period, to describe the tremendous struggle of the last hours (Is 63:1-6; Jer 6:11-19; Dn 9:6-27; 12:1-13; Jl 2:1-11; Am 5:14-20; Rev 19:11-21).
The image of childbirth is quite adequate to describe the struggle at the end of time. The prophets used it (Is 66:5-16), indicating that the birth of a new people was not a matter of a single day and that it could be painful. Jesus used the same image (Jn 16:19-23) and later, Paul would use it (Rom 8:18-27) when he compared the entire history of humanity to the long and painful birth of a new society. In the same manner that the hope of a forthcoming child sustains the mother during those moments of childbirth, the hope for a new and distinct life sustains those men and women presently working for the sake of their brothers and sisters. In this gigantic childbirth, the head has already appeared, the head of the new human, who is Jesus. We, who form the body, shall be born after him (Eph 1:22; 1 Cor 12:12 and 27).
Knowing when the end of the world is to come has been the concern of many generations. Jesus certainly believed that the end of this unjust world and the coming of the Kingdom of God were imminent. His manner of proclaiming the gospel and challenging the authorities, the urgency he felt as manifested by his words, are an indication that he believed the time to be near, that even he would witness it. The urgency of Jesus was inherited by the first Christians, who lived during the first century of our time, and who awaited the end of the world. Paul felt compelled to call the attention of early christians on several instances (2 Thes 2:1-7 and 3:6-12), although he too, was convinced that the day was forthcoming (1 Thes 4:13-18). These were times of severe persecution of the Christians, during which thousands of martyrs died. The ardent hope of the communities made them believe that the day of ultimate liberation was coming soon. It is in this context that the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, should be read. It is a beautiful text about the end of all time, written to console the Christians who were mercilessly persecuted by the Imperial power of Rome. It ends with an ardent call: “Marana ’tha! Come, Lord Jesus!” These are the last words written in the Bible.
Even now, there is a strong curiosity to know the day of the end of the world. A number of religious sects have indicated even the exact date of this day. They also seek to convert people to their beliefs, sowing fear among them of the punishment awaiting them. The Jehovah’s witnesses head this group. The Christian response to all these terrifying ideas is that we “end” the world, transforming it in terms of justice, life and love. This restlessness over dates and the supposed catastrophes awaiting us distracts us from this essential task.
God, the father of Jesus, is not a monster who wants to scare us to save us, by terrorizing us. This image of God as a wrathful personality who will crush the world with his fury on the day we least expect it, is totally false. A terrible caricature. God’s wrath is something much more serious and exigent. It is a constant call for the unjust to cease being so. For the humble and the poor, God is manifest, not in fury but in tenderness, in “the gentle breeze,” as happened to the prophet Elijah (1 K 19:1-13), and in the promise given us: in the end we shall see God‘s face and carry God’s name like a kiss of peace on our foreheads (Rev 22:4).
(Mt 24:3-51; Mk 13:3-37; Lk 12:41-48; 17:26-37; 21:7-36)
from the book: A Certain Jesus, Vol. 3 (Chapter
This book offers a new approach to appreciating the life of Jesus. The first part of the Chapter is in dialogue form in an up-to-date conversational language. This makes the reader realize that Jesus was once a very ordinary guy, a typical man in his time. The last part of each chapter contains an explanation of the biblical references, thus giving one the perspective for reflection.
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