Our God is the God of the present moment, and today’s Gospel can be seen as an opportunity to develop a relationship with God, now, to live hardwired into this incomprehensible gift; the gift of reality, the gift of the every-day. Our life in eternity with the Father – our life with Him as His children, begins not as we walk through the pearly gates, but in this moment. Yes, heaven begins now.
Yet this does not stop us being anticipatory, waiters and watchers for the Kingdom of God. Jesus reminds His disciples of the end of time, when ‘…they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.’ By doing so, He is telling us (we who are the spiritual successors of the disciples) to work towards the Kingdom of God, to be anticipators, waiters, watchers for God’s Kingdom.
We are nearing the season of Advent which, in various ways, is a most beautiful season. We are challenged by nature to see not only the reality but the beauty of the life cycle – death and rebirth – to accept and enter into the physicality of what will ultimately happen to the whole world. And to us. Nature gives this homily to us exquisitely; she does so in silence, without arrogance or forcefulness. And if we are open to receive the beauty of Autumn and Winter, we may begin to understand the root of the message, which is this: ‘All things are passing; God never changes.’ Advent, which marks the very beginning of the liturgical year, is a time for waiting, and it comes just as all the leaves are stripped from the trees, during the dark mornings and the biting cold.
So we are coming to a time when everything around us is asking us to be expectant, waiting for new life, for light, for warmth. Transposing the message of the seasons onto the liturgical year, that warmth and light and life is Christ who is coming into the world. But Advent is not a play that we simply re-enact every year: the expectancy should be real and meaningful. We are waiting for the second coming of Christ and, whether we are alive or dead at the time, this will be the moment when eternal, blissful communion with our loving Creator is fully realized. It is the summit of our existence to meet God as He is.
Christ has already come into the world. And what did we do? We nailed Him to a tree because we were so small-minded. We were not willing to relinquish our own beliefs, arrogance, self-importance and religious customs. So we took the Son of man and killed Him. It is His second coming we are anticipating now, when He will hand all ruling authorities and powers back to God the Father.‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.’
How, though, can we be expected to anticipate this second coming? As we commute to work, engage in our job, go about our work and rest, our social lives and study, how are we supposed to keep in mind the coming of the Kingdom of God?
The Christian answer is not what some would expect: it is all about re-structuring our concept of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is already close to us. It has already begun, because it is eternal. The Kingdom of God is already alive and it’s agents are alive and active all around us, and inside our hearts. The Holy Spirit is one such agent, the Spirit of God, the Inspirer of Scripture. And Christ gives us a clue as to how to remain aligned with the Kingdom of God: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’
The Gospel message goes by the name of Love, because God is love. And Christ came with one commandment, which is to love. Another title for Christ is ‘The Word of God’ and we know that His Word shall never pass away. We can use Scripture to re-align, to come into a fuller communion, with our loving Lord. When we hold the Gospels in our hands, we should do so with the same reverence with which we hold the Blessed Host. As we hear the words and speak them, we allow them to soak into ourselves, and we search for God’s Word speaking to us. We use Scripture to ‘walk around’ inside Christ’s active ministry, to be there in the Gospels. And in this setting, listening for Him, anticipating His Word, we begin to hear and sense and become part of the Kingdom of God. We begin to develop a real, living relationship with Him.
Christ said: ‘As for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’ This is a wonderful message to us. Whilst we are anticipating the Kingdom, heaven begins now. Concentrate on the God of the present moment. Live your lives now. Listen for His voice now. Meet Him in the friend and the stranger, in your thoughts, works and deeds. Live your life through the prism of God’s Word, for ‘…my words will not pass away.’
When you catch those glimpses, you are experiencing the beginning of heaven.