The focus for the first Sunday of Advent is “hope”. We celebrate the New Year in the Liturgical Calendar with hope, with anticipation, and with joy. We pray in the Eucharist, “We pray in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord and Savior,” not in fear or in anxiety, but with hope. We are a people of hope because we have God who offers us hope.
Our blessed hope is the coming of our Lord Jesus and the coming of His fullness of the Kingdom, our resurrection and our life everlasting in this Kingdom.
There are some people who write and post at the beginning of a new month or year, “I wish for the new month or the New Year to bring in joy, peace, and prosperity.” I am here to tell you that the rest of our future is going to be increasingly better. I know this because we belong to a Kingdom whose government is on the increase, and there will be no end to that increase or of its peace. Things will get better. Greater things are yet to come because Jesus brought the good news of His kingdom that is coming!
In the portion of Isaiah’s prophecy, it says that one day, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be the chief of the mountains and people will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. The question is: are we ready? Will we fit into that peaceful, righteous habitat?
Jesus first words when He started His ministry was, “Repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus did not mean to scare us but to make us included. He wants us to be happy for the coming of the Kingdom. If we are not prepared for it, if we continue to walk in the mundane things of the world, then, we will not fit in and enter into the Kingdom. God wants us included, prepared, and to flourish in His kingdom.
We prepare by repenting. Repentance doesn’t mean embracing a new morality or becoming more religious or more spiritual. It is simply changing our mind, renewing our minds and our heart so that it creates a change that alters the course of our life. The direction is towards the coming of the Kingdom. Looking forward to it makes us act accordingly. Anticipation causes us to bring the future into the present. We prepare for that which we anticipate, and it changes the present that we are in.
In Numbers 13, Moses sent spies to the Promised Land. They brought from the Promised Land its fruit and brought it back to the people. They brought something from the future that is promising and brought it to the present.
Whenever we come to the Table, we remember what Jesus did in the past, and we bring it to the present. We bring something from the past and bring it to the present because something is waiting for us in the future which is very good. It is the restoration of all things; it is the new creation. It is the life of the world to come. As citizens of the kingdom of God, we who are sons of the Resurrection, we act as if we are already living in the future life of the world to come. It is like a better version of a credit card. Using a credit card is getting from the future and enjoying it now, but we lose our future. In the kingdom of God, the more we reach to the future to bring it to the present, the more we actually multiply our future, and we are better prepared for it. We don’t lose with God; we always gain with Him.
In Matthew 24, Jesus says to be ready. Don’t be too engrossed with the mundane things of the world. In Moses’ time, people were busy doing everyday life. Not at all wrong but if we don’t prepare for the future or we don’t look forward to the future, then, we are just going to move in circles with the present. Act as if we are living in the fullness of the Kingdom now!
A big part of this future Kingdom is peace. This is why the king of this Kingdom is called the Prince of Peace. Isaiah imagined the world where there is increasingly peace and where people using the weapons of mass destruction will be converted to instruments of productivity. It all depends on how we view the world. Do we see the world as a battleground or do we see the world as a garden? If we see it as a battleground, we will keep our swords and spears because we are always on the alert against enemies. If we see the world as a peaceful garden, then we will convert our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. There will no longer be war. But, where did war come from?
James said that war actually starts from within. It is the evil desires that are at work in our hearts. The evil desire is always wanting to be proven right. War is two parties insisting on being right. War is between two parties who value being right more than being in relationship, restoring and reconciling. It always goes back to the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of the good and evil. The tempter said, “You eat of this fruit, you will always be right.”
Many years ago, I was a very arrogant young man. I would fight with my mother, and God spoke to me and He said to me, "Having a point is not the point. It is respect, relationship, and reconciliation. It is peace and giving glory to God.”
Again, war is two people not wanting to be proven wrong. It is more important for them to be proven right than to restore the relationship. God is always right! Did He assert His being right? No! He forgave whoever wronged Him, and in doing so, He reconciled the world to God. The point is not being proven right. We might be right but lose relationships.
In 1Corinthians, St. Paul said, “It saddens me that there are lawsuits among you, and in doing so, it is already a defeat. Why not rather be wrong?” Jesus Christ on the cross is the ultimate wrong, and yet, as the Prince of Peace, His words were, “Father, let Us forgive them.” He was reconciling, not condoning the wrong.
There is value to relationship more than being right, and so we make peace. Scriptures says, “Pursue the things which make for peace and the building of one another.” This is why our theme for the new Liturgical New is, “Proclaiming what is Profitable.” Taken from Acts20:20, we will proclaim and we will pursue what is profitable for the building up of one another. It is not for us, but for others.
There is a three-prong approach to proclaiming what is profitable: righteously living, actively serving, and generously giving. It is all for the profit of others. Our goal is that others may profit and that all things be done for edification because true joy comes from building up, not tearing down.
In the kingdom of God, we are not after “One-upmanship.” The kingdom of God is not of this. What we are after is peace among brethren and our relationship with them. When we humble ourselves and others are exalted, then the Lord will come. The valleys shall be exalted, the lofty hills will be brought low, and when there is equality, then, we are ready for the coming of the Lord, and we can hasten the coming of His kingdom. We can anticipate a better world; a new creation.
I would like to share with you a part of a poem:
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one, live as one.
Imagine, reach forward, yearn for it, and bring it to the present so that we can stir all humanity toward kingdom come. Imagine and make it a reality in our present world. Be like Joshua and Caleb, the two spies. Look for the future fullness of kingdom, yearn, reach for it and bring it to the present. The Kingdom, salvation is nearer now when we first believe. We can further hasten its coming by walking in the day, by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, by pursuing peace, and the building up of one another because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God!