Events that affect a large number of people are impressive. The pictures of celebrations from the end of World War II are iconic. The number of lives affected by WWII – those lost and those saved – is incredibly significant. An overwhelming feeling of elation and liberation undoubtedly filled the hearts of entire nations and continents. It’s hard to imagine such extreme moments of unity and joy, but our gratitude for those who served and fought for us continues despite the passing of time.
Our Advent journey begins with a meditation on a stump. Hopefully you’ve seen a stump before – hopefully, even if it was long ago when you were still little – you took time to study the stump. Maybe you counted the rings that represented the years of life that tree had. Perhaps you tried to pull it out of the ground only to discover how securely the roots hold it in place. I hope that you might have seen at least once – certainly not on every stump – but at least occasionally a small new branch starting from the stump. A stump seems pretty dead, and it certainly won’t ever look like the splendid tree that once grew in its place. The new little branch that occasionally sprouts from a stump, however, is a sign of the amazing power of life that is mysteriously present in the roots.
The very last day of the liturgical year we receive again the solemn warning about how we conduct ourselves throughout the time of our exile. The end of the book of Revelation offers some hopeful prophetic words about eternity, but reminds us that we must raise our minds and hearts to the mystery of Christ. Our sins and shortcomings ought to trouble us to some extent – we shouldn’t despair of course, but we should use the distress we experience, our guilt and shame, to plunge ourselves back into the merciful heart of God.