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The Eschaton is here!

December 1, 2019

A relfection for the 1st Sunday of Advent, Year A. The readings are Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14 and Matthew 24:37-44.

We begin the season of Advent and very often – especially this year – the readings are all about the eshcaton. Haven’t you heard of the eschaton? It is not a pre-historic monster that lurks in the depths of the ocean. The eschaton is a Greek word that refers to the end of times. You may have heard the word ‘eschatology’ or about things that are ‘eschatological’ – that’s ‘cause they have to do with the end times.

That’s what Jesus is talking about today in the Gospel. He has just told the disciples about the destruction of the Temple and they want to know when that’s going to happen. He doesn’t tell them when it’s going to happen, but he goes into a long speech about paying attention to signs and that there will be wars and earthquakes and famines and that when they see these things happen they should flee to the hills. And then He tells them that it will be like in the days of Noah, and that is the Gospel that that is read today. It doesn’t sound so ominous if we only hear what is in the Gospel today, but if you put it in context with what Jesus has just finished saying, it’s easy to see why over the centuries, people have thought that Jesus is talking about the end of the world.

But Jesus is not talking about the end of the world or the end of the human race; He’s talking about the escathon, the end of the age; the end of this age.

Perhaps a better way to think about it is by looking at the prophecy from Isaiah – our first reading today. Isaiah is talking about the same thing, the eschaton, the ‘day of the Lord’. He says that in those days nations will stream up the Lord’s mountain and swords will be turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. It will be a time of peace.

But there is a deeper meaning here.

I recently read a wonderful reflection on this prophecy by Canadian Christian singer-songwriter, Steve Bell. He says that it’s curious that Isaiah says that people will “stream” up the mountain. Things don’t stream up mountains; streams flow away from mountains. Why doesn’t Isaiah say that people will go towards the mountain? Why does he say nations will stream towards the mountain? It’s because in the days to come, things will be different. It will be a world where things are not the way we expect them; like topsy-turvy town. It will be a time when we will see things differently and things, in their nature, will be different: Indeed, streams will flow up mountains.

And that is why swords will be turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Not because we will take all the swords, melt them and build plowshares out of them, but because we will see a sword and not see a weapon, but instead we will see something that can be used to till the land. We will look at a spear and not see something that can cause harm, but we will see something that can be used for pruning trees.

In the days to come, we will see the world with different eyes: we will walk in the light of the Lord.

It’s like in this new world, we will see the world as if through “eschaton” glasses and we will see things not as they appear, but as they really are.

That’s why St. Paul tells the Romans that we will throw off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. How do we do that? He tells us: Put on Jesus Christ.; put on “Jesus Christ glasses”!

I am not proposing that it’s all up to us. It’s not up to us to bring about the eschaton. It’s all up to God. God will bring his Reign when He wants to bring about His Reign and whichever way He wants to bring about his Reign. But we can certainly cooperate with him! We can most definitely help out! We can put on our supernatural eschaton glasses and begin to see things differently: begin to see the topsy-turvy world; the streams that flow up mountains, the swords that are used for tilling the soil; we can throw off the words of darkness and put on the armour of light.

We be asleep, going about our business – like the people that Jesus describes in the Gospel – as if nothing is going on. Or we can begin to see the Kingdom of God that is already in our midst. We can sit and wait for Jesus to come at some point in the future, or we can begin to recognize him here now, because (newsflash!) He’s already here.

I think I’ve told you the story about the native elder who asked his students to tell him how they knew the exact moment when the dawn had arrived: When was that precise moment when it was no longer night and it was now day. A student put up her hand. “I know teacher! I know that the dawn has arrived when there’s just enough light that if I see an animal 100 feet away I can tell whether it’s a dog or a deer.” “That’s very good,” said the teacher, “but that’s not the answer I was looking for.” Another student put up his hand. “I know, teacher! We know that the dawn has arrived when there’s just enough light that if we see a tree 50 feet away, we can tell whether it’s a fir tree or a spruce tree.” “That’s also good,” said the teacher, “but it’s not the answer I am looking for.” And so, other students had different ideas as to how to know the precise moment that the dawn had arrived, but none had the answer the teacher was looking for. So they asked, “Tell us teacher, what’s your answer? How do you know that the dawn has arrived?”

The teacher responded, “We will know that the dawn has arrived, when we look to the person sitting on our right and the person sitting on our left and we recognize them, not as strangers, or different or the other, but as brother and sister, as children of God. When we do that, it won’t matter if it’s noon or if it’s midnight, because it will always be the dawn, the eschaton (escha-dawn?), for our eyes, ears will have been opened; we will see the world as if with eschaton glasses and see the things, not as they appear, but as God sees them.

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. So maybe today is a good day to start by putting on Christ. Go to the Dollar Store and get yourself a pair of eschaton glasses so you can begin to see the world differently. We can’t do it ourselves, that is why we put on Christ; Christ helps us. And then we can throw off the works of darkness and clothe ourselves with the armour of light. Get rid of your selfishness, your pettiness, your pride, your greed and jealousies; stop your gossiping and your bullying; get rid of your fears, your mistrust and your insecurities. This Advent, let’s begin to see the world around us, not as it appears, but as God sees it, so we can begin to recognize streams flowing up mountains and swords and spears as agricultural tools.

So we can begin to recognize the Kingdom that is to come, not in some distant future, but the Kingdom that is already in our midst.

So we can begin to recognize, not the Christ that’s coming in the future, but the Christ who is already here…

The Christ who is already, very much here.

From → English, Reflections

One Comment
  1. Joel permalink

    Thanks for sharing DP

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