Jer. 33:14-16; Ps. 25:1-9 • Dan. 12:1-3; Ps. 16 • 1 Thess. 3:9-13 • Luke 21:25-36
To speak persuasively is to draw up worn words and tried images, a stockpile of poetry and story, and then to give these bones new life by fitting them to the prudence of the hearer (Cicero, De Oratione). Our Old Testament prophet opines no new thought, just an old-time tradition: Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus.
“In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. … And his name will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer. 33:14-16). It hurts to long for home, but without such pain, the promise of homecoming and God’s new reign would become faded history, a distant lost hope. The prophet pulls old words out of the tradition and binds them to the heart of his people. He gives the people a restless heart. They gird their loins and dream of a mass migration.
In the fullness of time, the Branch springs up in little Galilee, ruling among the people, but not as the leaders of this age. He rules by his compassion, his healing, his teaching, his listening, and his suffering. He reigns even from the cross as his reaching arms embrace all and every sorrow. He reigns over final death as “now the gate of death is riven,” our ancient parents coming home (Hymnal, 454). And his name will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” The Branch branches out by replicating his likeness in a diversity of persons through the gift of his life-giving Spirit. “The work of the Holy Spirit is directed to persons, communicating the virtual fullness of grace to each human hypostasis in the Church, making each member of the body of Christ a conscious collaborator with God” (Vladimir Lossky, The Image and Likeness of God, p. 177).
For this reason, members of the body rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, being bound together in one mystical communion. “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?” St. Paul asks (1 Thess. 3:9). He prays, “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love toward you” (3:12). As in a growing family, so in the Church, love is ever expanding. “Concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you. … But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more” (4:9-10).
The Thessalonians have love, but they have worries too. What of those who have died in the Lord? “The Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first” (4:16). “You yourselves know that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (5:2).
Although imbued with Christ’s indwelling Spirit, the Spirit of love, the Church and all her members perceive foreboding signs in sun, moon, stars, and raging seas. “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Luke 21:33). The foundations shake. How do we live? We stay with Love and remember: “my words will not pass away.” My words are the distribution of the one Word to every human hypostasis in the church. Watch at all times, know that God is faithful, abound in Love!
Look It Up
Read Luke 21:31. How near is the kingdom? He is about to come.
Think About It
He is the awaited branch, and so are we, for when he calls himself the vine, he calls us branches.