Friday, November 25, 2016


By Colleen O’Sullivan

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.  The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  (Rev. 21:1-2)

Jesus told his disciples a parable.  “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.  When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.  (Luke 21:29-31)

Lord, we long to see your face.  We long to be among those singing your praises in the new Jerusalem.

What we have in our first reading today is a powerful vision of the end time, a vision using all sorts of symbolism, a vision not to be taken literally.  I know many people who dislike these end-of-the-church-year readings.  They find them frightening.

But today’s reading brings a word of hope to all the faithful of every age.  In this world, suffering is part and parcel of living.  Some of our brothers and sisters have suffered for the Gospel.  Some, even this very year, have died for their faith in Christ.  But to all who have been faithful, living or dead, hope is the last word.  A far better future awaits us.

John describes it as the new Jerusalem, a place where the powers of evil are overcome, where God reigns for all eternity.  It’s where we all long to be, in that place where illness and suffering and death no longer exist, in that place where we join the chorus praising and adoring God.

Growing Figs (Public Domain)
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus points to the fig tree when telling the disciples how to tell when the Kingdom of God is near.  The fig tree is an ancient sign or hope.  Fig trees show up throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to the Gospels.  The fruit of the tree sometimes symbolizes blessing.

I think Jesus had hope in mind when he told this brief parable.  God, who knew each of us before all time, who named us and formed us in our mothers’ wombs isn’t out to get us or frighten us.  God desires our friendship in this life and wants nothing more than for us to spend all eternity together.  It is God’s hope that we will be with him in his Kingdom for all time.

As you gather with family around the table, sharing Thanksgiving leftovers and looking to the Advent season which begins on Sunday, give thanks for the signs that God’s Kingdom is near.  Jesus himself said earlier in this Gospel that if it is by the power of God that he drives out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon us (Lk 11:20).

The Kingdom is not yet fully realized, but there are signs all around of its in-breaking if we open our eyes to see.  I am grateful for the love I see in others, especially as displayed by one of my friends and her family, who have opened their hearts to a child from Colombia and will soon open their arms to welcome her and give her a forever family.  In a nation that has been deeply scarred and divided in recent months by the ugliest election campaign I ever remember, these are signs that God is in our midst, that good works are being done in God’s name and that there is reason to hope that we will one day find ourselves in the New Jerusalem with God.

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