I DON’T GET IT, LORD (Mark 13:33-37): 30 November 2008 (First Sunday of Advent)
NOTE: Starting this new liturgical season, I will be posting my PRAYERS based on the readings. Hope you can share yours too.
For the past three days, I was glued to CNN and BBC to follow the events in Mumbai. Whenever I could, I checked the networks and the Internet for updates on the coordinated and simultaneous terrorist attacks on nine different sites, which included two five-star hotels, one popular café, and a Jewish community center. The crisis left about 180 dead and over 300 wounded. But it has also left some pretty disturbing questions.
First question: Who were the perpetrators? Some of the initial photographs flashed on the screen showed young men brandishing high-powered weapons: Men barely in their twenties who could have been university students! According to a survivor, one of the gunmen in a luxury hotel was smiling as he sprayed bullets on the stampeding herd of people.
Second question: Why would these men—or anybody, for that matter—want to harm innocent civilians? Among those murdered in cold blood were a young American rabbi and his Israeli wife, who both resided in Mumbai to serve the Jewish community there.
Third question: Is any place still safe in our world today? One local journalist could not hide her bewilderment and frustration because she claimed that the two hotels that had been attacked—the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel—conducted the most thorough searches for guests, so she could not understand how the terrorists had been able to sneak their guns and grenades into them to launch their attack.
I don’t get it.
Another question: Were the Indian authorities adequately prepared for such a crisis? Could they have done more to prevent this elaborately planned terrorist attack?
In the Gospel today, for the First Sunday of Advent, you tell us: “Be watchful! Be alert!” How are we supposed to be watchful and alert in a world where we’re not even sure which place is still safe, and whether people still play by the rules of the game anymore? So much has changed in the world today. The world seemed so much simpler–and less dangerous–when I was younger.
Lord, it doesn’t seem right to begin Advent on such a somber and sober note. But come to think of it, maybe “somber and sober” is good. Maybe it’s the best way to begin this season. Advent, after all, isn’t a magical prelude to Christmas. Mary and Joseph’s Advent certainly wasn’t. Certainly for them, the road that led to Bethlehem had been a bumpy one, and the road your family took from Bethlehem to Egypt was fraught with danger. Maybe it’s time I realize that Advent isn’t just about lighting candles on a wreath or about counting down to the usual frenzied Christmas celebrations. Rather, it’s about you not keeping your distance from our troubled and dangerous world. It’s about you deciding to embrace our humanity, even and especially our woundedness and suffering.
Lord, open our eyes so that we may see that Advent is an invitation to close the distance between us and those who suffer. Amen.
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