Monday, November 26, 2012

Gospel text for 2 December 2012

 Luke 21:25-36       Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
Reflection           Pothos (longing) and Himeros (desire) were sons of the Greek God Eros (love). Whereas Himeros desired that which is humanly possible to acquire, Pothos longed for that which is beyond human reach. As we enter this Advent season of anticipation and expectation I find myself standing between the brothers Pothos and Himeros. I desire the things of the world be made well, I long for union in my God, and I wonder if either is possible? But as I look around and see wars exploding across the globe, economies faltering, pillars of society falling; as I experience my neighbor’s fear and my own trepidation, Jesus’ warning to , “be on guard...not let your heart be weighed down,” cuts to my core, it rings true. With Pothos on my right side and Himeros on my left I must “stand up and raise my head.” I dare not fear that my desire and longing will not be satisfied. 
When in all of history have human lives not been fraught with times of trial? Not a single epoch I’ve read about lacks the “distress among nations,” and “people fainting from fear and foreboding” that Jesus talks about. I guess that’s why Jesus taught his friends (and us) to pray.... “save us from the times of trial.” It seems the inevitable earthly times of trial are the very ground from which springs our desire for a more whole and holy world. When all the signs point to a world shaken and in distress, we are to turn around, “to stand before the Son of Man,” the only One who may satisfy the deepest longing of our souls. We are to pray, to stay in relationship with God.
On the subject of desire, longing and prayers St. Augustine wrote, “Thy desire is thy prayers; and if thy desire is without ceasing, thy prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer.”
Advent is a season of desire and longing, longing for what is and for what is to come. Perhaps another way to say that is, Advent is a season of preparing our hearts with prayer to receive what is and what is to come.

Image above is skopas' Pothos; the lyre is a modern addition, the head - with the features of Alexander - is an ancient restoration (Archaeological Museum of Naples)