The Gift of Apocalypse

A Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Jeremiah 33:14-16

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

 Luke 21:25-36

I love apocalyptic films. Alien invasions, panicked pandemics, climate change catastrophes, and nuclear fallout: our culture has depicted its own destruction in a myriad of ways.

This week I rented the film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, an apocalyptic story in an end times sub-genre I like to call: A Giant Asteroid is Set on a Collision Course with Earth.

The film delivers exactly what it promises: a witty, if sad middle aged man—ironically, an insurance broker—who spends the world’s last days searching for a long lost lover to accompany him to the end.

It sounds like the chorus of a country western song. And, in fact, the film begins with the protagonist’s wife leaving him, literally running away as soon as she hears the news that the asteroid cannot be stopped.

When the world begins to end, suddenly people begin to feel that many of the things that had bound their lives, no longer hold true.

With two weeks left to live, almost nobody shows up for work.
With two weeks left to live, an unhealthy marriage is ended.
With two weeks left to live, an estranged father and son are reconciled.

This is what apocalyptic films reveal to us: when the rubber hits the road, what in our lives has lasting value? In the language of our faith: What in our lives is of eternal consequence?

At the end of a world, we see all the illusions that have governed our lives more clearly.

At the end of an economy
we see we have saved a lifetime
to posses only paper.

At the end of a state
we see the boarders we have fought for
were lines on a map.

At the end of a river
we see the oil we have mined
will not quench our thirst.

At the end of a life
we see all the things we wanted to say
and didn’t.

At the end of a world, we see what we just couldn’t see before—that is the gift of apocalypse.

“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.”

In this morning’s gospel, Jesus describes for us the end of the world, and like an apocalyptic film, he does so to have us consider not the end, but the present.

What are you doing now that you would do differently at the end?

What work are you doing now, that you would continue to do at the end?
What relationships are you in now, that you would maintain at the end?
What bitterness are you bearing now, that you would let go of at the end?

Jesus tells us, “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.”

Each of us will experience in our lives the end of a world. Perhaps you already have.

The good news this morning, is that the end of a world is not the end of God’s world. Heaven and earth may pass away, but Jesus’ words will not pass away. And this morning, the words of Jesus are saying to you: “Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Today we mark the first Sunday of Advent, the first day of a month long period of preparation, a time in which we await together the coming of our redemption.

So together, as we enter this time, let us be alert at all times, praying that we too may have the strength: the strength to escape the illusions that bind us and the strength to stand before the Son of Man at the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Jeffrey Metcalfe is a priest in the Diocese of Quebec. While he completes his theological studies at Trinity College in Toronto, he serves as the assistant curate at the Church of the Redeemer. He is a co-editor of Catholic Commons.

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