Change is frightening to many people. We cling to the familiar. Yet often it is the strange, the foreign and the unfamiliar that shock us into appreciating what we have and what God offers. Maryknollers take for granted the need for the gospels to be translated into local languages. In addition, customs and symbols used by Jesus and St. Paul in the first century might be meaningless to cultures half a world and two millennia away. The challenge facing the missioner is to find ways to communicate the forgiveness, love and mercy of God into the daily lives of people using words and actions that they can understand.
The explicitly graphic apocalyptic movie "2012" currently raking in big bucks notwithstanding, what does all this talk about the end of the world in Luke's gospel mean to people today? To be sure, fundamentalists love this drama and use it to swindle gullible followers out of their homes and savings. Too bad those followers don't take time to stop and think if the world is really ending, why do their religious leaders need money and deeds to real estate?
Yet every year at this time the readings at Mass (not to mention our weekly reciting of the creed) remind us Jesus will indeed come again and the world will one day end. When this will happen on a global scale is one thing, but truth be told, people's worlds end on a regular basis all the time. The end of the world is not theoretical theological speculation for millions of people who suffered earthquakes in Indonesia and Samoa or tsunamis in Thailand and India. Even modern equivalents like the current global financial upheaval remind us our existence is very tenuous and our tranquility an illusion.
Thus, Advent admonishes us to stay awake, be aware and be ready. At this very moment somewhere in the world tens of thousands of people died for all kinds of reasons. How prepared were they when their world came crashing down around them? Live in such a way as to make the most of the time we have been given, no matter how short or long. We are closer to the end than when you first started reading this!