How often do we think about the end times? In Luke 21:5-11, God invites us to reflect on just this. It is easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives with our jobs, our families, our luxuries, and our troubles and completely forget that one day Jesus Christ will return in glory. When all is going well, it is easy to become complacent. When times get tough it is easy to fall into despair.
It is easy on either occasion to forget that we are but strangers of this world whose true citizenship with God is in heaven. Whether it is complacency or despair or something in-between, the temptation to stop moving forward and to get “stuck” is real.
“On earth we are wayfarers, always on the go. This means that we have to keep on moving forward. Therefore be always unhappy about what you are if you want to reach what you are not. If you are pleased with what you are, you have stopped already. If you say ‘it is enough’ you are lost. Keep on walking, moving forward, trying for the goal. Don’t try to stop on the way, or to go back, or to deviate from it.”Saint Augustine (Sermon 169, 18)
Luke 21:5-11 is a helpful invitation to remain faithful to Christ alone in the ups and downs of life, knowing that the return of Christ and all that precedes His return is part of God’s eternal plan. For we are gifted with the promise that those who cling to God in faith and believe in him will experience eternal life when he comes, a life of fullness and joy beyond anything we can experience here.
Augustine’s life reminds us that one of the primary avenues of clinging to God in faith is to continually renew our own awareness that beneath all that we search for and cling to in this life is an innate desire for God.
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and yet so new, late have I loved you. You were always there inside me and I was running around outside. I was looking for you out there, and confused as I was, I threw myself upon those beautiful things that you had made. You were always in me, but I was not always in you. Created things kept me apart from you even though they themselves could only exist in you. You called and shouted and finally broke through my deafness. You blazed forth and shone brightly and finally broke through my blindness.”Saint Augustine (Confessions 10.27.38)
Do we hear God “calling and shouting” to us as He calls us back towards Him as our true desire? Or is His voice falling on deaf ears? As we continue our pilgrimage through this life in hopeful anticipation of the second coming of Christ, we can use each day to anticipate the many ways He already comes to us in the present. The answered prayers we experience, the blessings we receive, the people He sends into our lives to give us joy or comfort, the sense of peace we gain when we enter into prayer, etc. The more we cultivate our awareness of God’s ever abiding presence in the here and now, the more we will be moved to keep moving forward in our walk of faith as we grow in desire for what is yet to come, eternal life.
Advent is a time when we can get back in touch with our own restless search for our true desire, Jesus Christ. We can do so by willingly entering into the darkness of the areas of our lives in which we are seemingly “stuck” on the path of the journey we have been called to make. It is an opportunity to renew our awareness of the glory to which we are headed and the fact that we are not alone on the journey towards it.
“God stretches our desire through delay, stretches our soul through desire, and makes it large enough by stretching it. Let us desire, then, because we have to be filled.”