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Breath of the Spirit: Reckoning with Love's Interventions

The new liturgical year often seems to come amid a crush of things to do: Thanksgiving preparations, Christmas plans, end-of-year parties, and so much more. The readings of the first week of Advent this year invite us to listen for Love’s voice in the midst of this cacophony and allow this Word spoken into our world and into our hearts to call us to change. Not so much a New Year’s resolution, as a renewed commitment to reckoning with the implications of God’s Love – for us and for our world.

November 27, 2022: First Sunday of Advent, Year A

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalms 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44


Reckoning with Love’s Interventions

A reflection by John Falcone

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent – the transition from one Church Year to the next.The readings speak of endings and beginnings. The “last days” when God will teach us to make peace (Isaiah 2:4). The call to “Wake up!” and pay attention – “the night is far spent, and the day is drawing near” (Romans 13:12). The sudden arrival of transformed ways of being, as startling as a flash flood, or as a thief in the night (Matthew 24:39, 43).

Beneath all this lies a deep sense of longing. In northern latitudes at this time of year, longing is part of our natural rhythms – now that the harvest is over, we hang lights, and we wait for the spring. But the longings in these readings are more than just cyclical. What do you find yourself most longing for?

I long to be comforted; to find hope when life brings disappointment. When I look at the world we live in, I long for unfairness and unnecessary suffering to end. Enough of hopelessness and feeling paralyzed. Enough of racism and war. Enough of climate denial, and business-as-usual catastrophes. Enough of violence towards women; of trying to control other people’s wombs, genitals, and identities. Enough poverty, abuse, and impunity. Enough!

(And if I say this as a highly educated, white North American, what must people with less privilege than me be saying?)

The readings tell us that God has been watching; and that God also is saying, “Enough.”

“Enough” is what we hear in Isaiah’s prophecy. In these “last days,” nations will come to God seeking wisdom, and instruction will flow out to meet them. We will finally learn how to turn swords into plowshares. We will finally figure out how to redirect spending priorities toward sustainability, for nations both rich and poor.

“Enough” is what we hear in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul calls out a list of behaviors that to first century thinkers were obviously sinful: “carousing and drunkenness, sexual excess and lust, quarreling and jealousy, desires of the flesh.” I propose that we reimagine Paul in a present-day context, as a prophetic and critically awake preacher. “Siblings, let us all live correctly. Don’t be violent. Don’t be sexual predators. Act like you actually give a damn about one another. Build up community, don’t break it down. Reject oppression. Don’t buy into the divisive hype.”

And “Enough” is what we hear in this final speech by Jesus in Matthew (chapters 24-25, the “Discourse on the End”). Already, Jesus has predicted wars, famines, earthquakes (Mt 24:1-36; we heard a different version of this speech from Luke’s gospel, two weeks ago). People will suffer, and false leaders will lead many astray. Now Jesus predicts that the end will come unexpectedly. Two people will be working beside each other: “one will be taken and one will be left” (Mt 24:40-41). In light of this passage, some Christians imagine a “rapture” of eye-blink disappearances, with driverless cars veering off of the freeway. I don’t know if that’s what Jesus envisioned; but he was certain about one thing: God will act suddenly, and all of us will be surprised.

Our planet has come to a tipping point. One way or another, things will change. If we are prepared, we will not miss the transformative moment when God invites us into something world-changing and new.

In former days, this invitation came to us in different ways: an encounter with a homeless couple and their baby; a group of working-class farm hands, telling stories of angels and politics and new hope; wandering do-gooders with stars in their eyes. In these “last days” we don’t know how or when it will happen. But the moment is pregnant. A change is at hand. This is true for our world and, I suspect, in its own way true for each of us.

Jesus tells us, “Be vigilant! You must be prepared” (Mt 24: 42, 44). Ulrich Luz, the great scholar of Matthew’s gospel, understood what Jesus meant in this passage. Only those “who reckon constantly with God’s intervention without trying to be in control [of it] can be ‘awake’” in the way Jesus describes (Matthew, vol. 3, p. 215).

The longing we feel reflects God’s own longing. Enough is enough. But we cannot predict or control what will happen. We can only remain open and keep on the lookout – reckoning with Love’s interventions in our lives – ready to join in when God brings new and transformative ways of being to life.


John P. Falcone is a practical theologian, religious educator, and a practitioner of Theatre of the Oppressed (PhD Boston College). He has been a Dignity member for more than 20 years with close links to Dignity NY, where he met his husband Matias Wibowo in 2005. He is currently Theologian-in-Residence at St. Matthew’s Bethnal Green (Church of England) in London’s East End.

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