By Kim Redigan, an Advent reflection on Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 for the Faith Outreach Committee of the People’s Water Board (Detroit, MI)
The gospel reading this first week of Advent is wildly apocalyptic and, ultimately, hope-filled.
Jesus describes a creation in travail. Roaring waves and raging oceans are dire signs of a planet – a people – in distress. Water speaks in the cataclysmic tongues of rising sea levels, poisoned water, privatized water, weaponized water, withheld water.
Strong-willed water flows as she will through the pages of scripture and history where we encounter her awful power – the power to cleanse, heal, anoint, and – yes – destroy. Make no mistake, there are real consequences to the greed, oppression, and death-dealing policies that leave God Herself crying in the voice of our neighbors, I thirst. God is not mocked, and neither is the water.
In today’s gospel, Divine Mother desperately grabs her sleepwalking children and shakes them awake while the heavens tremble and the churning water roars a stern warning that the time has come to be vigilant, take courage, remain strong, and keep our eyes on the prize. The old order is passing away. The old (dis)order of domination, injustice, and a scandalous exploitation of the poor will not win in the end.
Today’s reading calls us to summon the courage to wait – steadfast and sober – with hearts and eyes wide open to the realities of our time. To remain awake to our neighbors living without water. Awake to those who thirst. Awake to our own sluggishness. Can we thirst for justice with the urgency of Hagar in the desert or a family in Detroit struggling to survive without water?
Advent is all about active and engaged waiting. Waiting for justice to be born. Waiting for the arrival of a new heaven and earth where the yoke of oppression will be broken and there will be water – clean, safe, affordable water for all who thirst.
Just like the sudden gush of warm water that breaks when a baby is about to be born, the water in today’s gospel is a sign that the hard work of labor is now upon us. All of us are called to help midwife a new world into being. A world in which justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:24)