Today we celebrate a new liturgical year. Last Sunday we were closing the old year with the celebration of Christ the King. Jesus answered Pilate, “Mine is not a kingdom of this world”. Yet often we hear that the “kingdom of God is in our midst”. Today is the first day of Advent, a season to prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus into our midst. Lurking in the dark recess is Omicron. Good and bad. Two kingdoms, two worlds.

How do we make sense of this? One of the greatest challenges to our Christian faith is the existence of suffering. If God exists, and is a God of Love, why is there suffering? In this world we live in, suffering inevitably exists. In the kingdom that is promised us, every tear will be wiped away. When we want to build kingdoms for “myself” at the expense of others, we deny the establishment of a world where love is the answer. Two kingdoms, two worlds; riches of the earth versus treasures in heaven.

St Paul to the Thessalonians, “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race. We urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it. (Second Reading)

God has allowed this pandemic, and with it the sufferings that come with it. The beginnings of this pandemic and its subsequent spread is a consequence of human action. This is not a debate of what we should or should not have done. That is beyond me, or us as single human individuals. This is just about acknowledging that every single person has the complete freedom to choose to do what he or she wants. Whatever we do has a knock-on effect on the other person. But as single, human individual person it is not beyond us to choose to love one another and the whole human race.

In Advent, we are preparing for the coming of Christ into our choices and subsequent actions. Sufferings can be alleviated by love. We dare say that some sufferings can be avoided if there was love, the love for the other not that love for self. This kingdom is in our midst, and near at hand. Advent is this preparation to let this kingdom come into our world.

St Paul to the Thessalonians continued, “You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus”.

A new liturgical year arrive with a fresh cycle of scripture readings. Instructions on the authority of Christ the King. Instructions we must allow into the use of our freedom, to come into the small and simple acts of our daily life. We are human and we progress by taking small steps. This Advent is a preparation for Christmas. Let this Christmas define our whole year ahead, so we can make the choice to allow the Word amongst us to come alive in our little actions, where love will comfort suffering, allowing the kingdom into our world.

What menace will Omicron turn out to be for our world? What kingdoms will it destroy? We do not know. We only have the power to love. But it is enough to build a kingdom that is not of this world.

1st Sunday of Advent