Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would tear the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence, 2 as when fire kindles the brushwood, and the fire causes the waters to boil; to make your name known to your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome things which we didn’t look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
So goes the first reading of the first sunday in Advent. Note the cosmological signs—tearing the heavens, mountains quaking, nations trembling. All apocalyptic language.Trito-Isaiah was written after the return of the exiles from Babylon (5th c BCE). Like other points in Jewish history, a time of lamentation, of waiting, of disappointment.
Now Jesus in the gospel simply says, “Stay awake.”
It is surely ironic that all the endtimers who promote the nonsense of the fiery ending and the dramatic Second Coming never quote Jesus who tells the people that we do not know the hour or the day.
There is no doubt that the Baptist who plays such a dramatic role in Advent was a raving endtimer. Next Sunday we see him coming like a wild man out of the desert,proclaiming God’s judgment…”the axe is lying at the root of the trees…” and the bad ones will tossed into the fire.His winnowing fork is in his hand…”
John felt deeply the crisis time under Roman occupation, the deep suffering.
The difference between “the greatest prophet in Israel” as Jesus calls him and the Baptizer is that Jesus accepts that God is intervening in history…NOW. But he broke with the Baptist’s “God is judgment” prediction and proclaims:
NO, God is mercy!
Not divine judgment but a divine banquet. The kingdom of grace and forgiveness acted out in a eucharistic setting.