How many shopping days until Christmas?
Every year, as the nights grow longer and the days grow colder, a sense of urgency begins to build within us to hurry, shop, buy, order, and wrap a multitude of things intended to bring happiness into the lives of those we love, know, work with, and often, rarely spend time with. Before the pumpkins are carted to the curbs, the stores are filled with Christmas music, décor, sales and suggestions!
We faithful followers of Jesus start to be bombarded with messages that would take our attention further from the coming of Christ into our world, both this year and at the end of time, and to place it on the acquisition of the treasures of this world. Preparations for many are already well underway for the celebration of Christmas including all the expense, all that is shiny and new, all of the things that will not last. In this reading and other places in scripture, we are cautioned about storing up “treasure on earth where moths and rust consume, and thieves break in and steal.” Rather, we are encouraged to store up treasure in Heaven, “for where your treasure is, your heart will be also.”
Advent annually serves as a reminder to realign our priorities, to be reminded of where we are storing up treasure, as well as what that treasure is, which hopefully is not of this earth because, we are told, “not a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” will remain when Jesus returns.
We are challenged about the rationality of believing In God, as evidence seems to mount to the contrary. All that is evil in the world can cause people to doubt the existence of God and question God’s involvement or lack thereof in our world – how can God permit all this wrongdoing? We are called “to give testimony” in our homes, in our families, in the marketplace, sometimes through words, but mostly through the manner in which we live our lives. The gospel cautions that we will be “led before kings and governors,” those people who represent the rich and powerful, the voices of authority in society, and sadly, sometimes within our own families. How difficult it is to be counter-cultural, especially in our media-obsessed world. In this gospel, we are reassured that the words we use to defend the existence of God, or our belief in God, or in giving justification for why we refrain from placing significance on treasure in the eyes of the world will come from Godself when the time comes. The words in today’s gospel are “see that you not be deceived … do not be terrified … I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”
The admonitions and warnings we read in today’s gospel are meant to startle us out of our complacency and call us to bear witness to our trust in God. Yet, while they do strike reasonable fear of the Lord in us, words of consolation shine out of each of the other readings for this Sunday, words which confirm the presence of the Holy Spirit, and give us hope. These words are: peace, happiness, goodness, gladness, justice, joy, equity.
St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta said, “we are called to be faithful, not successful” and the gospel confirms, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”