What Causes God’s Heart Hurt?
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
— Matthew 24:36-44
In the lectionary Gospel lesson for the first Sunday of Advent in Matthew 24:36-44 Jesus responds to the disciples’ request: “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” In his response, Jesus talks about the signs of the end of times and how his disciples will experience “birth pangs” and persecution. Even more explicitly, Jesus tells the disciples you will be “…tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name…and they will betray one another and hate one another.”
I wonder if what Jesus is asking the disciples, and is asking us this Advent season, is to pay attention to what is happening in our world, and ask the question: “What is causing God’s heart hurt?”
As we identify what makes God’s heart hurt, we should then take that as a sign of the need for the kingdom of God to be a reality in whatever situation of despair or suffering we are encountering. Even more, as we encounter people in situations that make God’s heart hurt, we are called to become instruments of Advent to those people and situations.
Advent is a season that invites us to prepare ourselves to once again tell the story of Jesus, the son of God, the One who came to redeem us. The truth is that the way we tell the story is influenced by the way the story was told to us. And, as we look at the history of how Jesus’ story has been told, we can identify a series of theological mistakes that still influence the way we tell the story of Jesus in the present day that should challenge us to redeem the way the story of Jesus has been told.
The Advent season reminds us that, our story as the Church of Christ begins with the birth of a child. The Advent season reminds us that Christ our king came to this world in the most vulnerable way, as a baby who was rejected and did not have a place in the inn, and as a member of a family that had to escape the violence and oppression by a ruthless ruler.
During this Advent season we are challenged to tell the Jesus’ story in a way that those who are suffering, marginalized, and are tagged as underserved by society can really experience liberation and freedom. We are supposed to tell the Jesus’ story in a way that the oppressive powers are challenged. We are supposed to tell the Jesus’ story not being afraid to cause crises that will bring hope and new creation.
In order to redeem the wrong ways in which we have told the Jesus’ story, we need to pay attention to the signs, we need to identify what makes God’s heart hurt. One of the many signs and situations that I am sure make God’s heart hurt is the persecution, abuse, and exploitation of children around the world. Children around the world are crying, and we cannot ignore such a sign: “‘Why did they attack us? We didn’t do anything to them.’Twelve-year-old Noor al-Sawarka speaks to Al Jazeera about the Israeli air raid on November 14 that killed eight members of her family.”
This is one many cries globally that reminds us that perhaps this Advent season is an opportunity to embrace a sense of urgency before the cries of children around the world, so that we can be ready to respond.
St. Romero in one of his homilies offered the following statement during Advent: “Let us be true Christians, worthy of this eschatological hour that lasts from the first coming of Christ until the second, this final period of history. Let us experience this time as something that is not permanent but passing. Let us not become too attached and established here. We should not let the goods and the power of this earth make us lose the enchantments of the kingdom of God that will soon receive us. Just as a person is abducted and taken away without leaving behind any trace, so also will we be taken away, but by the love of Christ who will take us forever into his heaven. May it be so.” Amen.
Almighty God, may your Holy Spirit help us to adopt the proper posture, so that we can hope for your promises and with courage we may overcome all of our fears. As we embrace a posture of expectation, preparation and penance as we start a new year in our calendar year, and as the day to celebrate the birth of your Son Jesus arrives, we proclaim you as our rock, our redeemer, and our refuge until you come again in your final victory when there will be no more children crying. Amen.