The season of Advent has always been a time of expectation ever since the first one in that dusty corner of the Roman Empire. The Latin root meaning expresses just this sense of ‘what is to come’. But, what to expect?…that the climate will change, that there will be wars and rumors of wars, that there will be tumults and upheavals social and geological, that democracy will progress…or retreat, that the stock market will reach new highs? Heraclitus understood that change is universal, but he had no wisdom to share regarding how change will be manifest, about what to expect.
The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she should expect to bear a son – the Son of God. Her ascent to this news as a young girl only recently betrothed certainly gave her something to expect. From the stories of her family and friends she surely knew what lay ahead for a pregnant girl. But this child would be different. What did she expect? Her faith and trust in God and God’s beneficent care flow down to us today through the Church. And the Church provides at the end of each liturgical year, just before Advent, readings from her scriptures that have been understood to reveal in some way what we are to expect. These are apocalyptic writings describing troubling times of judgement at the end of the world. One of these, from Luke 18:1-8, ends with this sentence spoken by the One Mary bore,
“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Even He wonders what to expect.