It's Advent once again, a privileged Advent just two years from the beginning of the Third Millennium. In this issue, I try to take reflections on the Millennium a little further than previous writings. As usual this Advent, I am filled with thoughts about the threefold coming of Christ -- the coming of Christ into human existence in the fullness of time two thousand years ago, the coming of Christ into the present moment (the fullness of a our personal time), and the coming of Christ into our future on this planet. Later, I will share some thoughts about what the beginning of the Fourth Millennium might be like a thousand years hence.
All of this heady awareness for me happened this afternoon. The leaves have changed late this year (in November rather than October) and a friend and I headed into the Maryland countryside to enjoy the beautiful vista. We were rewarded by the vision of an extraordinary light that cast a golden-orange glow upon the landscape -- not just for a moment, but vista after vista was transformed before our eyes as we drove along. That moment was one of the most thrilling awarenesses of the kingdom that I have ever experienced, an experience in the present moment, a moment in which God in God's splendor was present in creation.
This has been coupled with other awarenesses in recent weeks in which I felt that I had arrived in the kingdom, seeming to be very special gifts given to me and to my friend as we have learned to converse about what living in the kingdom would be like. This conversation itself has been astonishing; would that such dialogue about the kingdom might break into the conversations of all of us as we share with a special friend our spiritual life.
As I think about the gifts that God has blessed me with recently I have thought more than once: "Can it be any better than this?" as real satisfaction, joy and contentment came over me. I truly believe that I personally have arrived in my spiritual growth at a place where I can truly enjoy God's presence -- in my inner being, in my surroundings, in my relationships, on the planet I share with billions of people -- at least part of the time.
I am also aware that, as has often happened in my priesthood, I have been given this awareness a little in advance of others so that I can share in my writing a perspective or two that will enable you, my readers, to enter such grace-filled awareness.
It all begins with Jesus. Jesus, the Word, who existed with the Father from the beginning, entered into time in its fullness for he was -- and is -- the fullness of time for us. We who bear the name of Christ proudly, yet humbly, are transformed by the influence of this Man who by the power of his Risen Life can do this two thousand years after his arrival as a tiny baby, born of a woman, in a time that only had fullness for those who had eyes to see and ears to hear.
Two thousand years after his planet-side appearance, Jesus is able to impact our lives for the better -- if only we are careful not to manipulate that experience for our own purposes in the way that so many have done in the past Millennium. We manipulated the message of Jesus by spreading Christianity by the sword and by our arrogance rather than winning and earning people's hearts, one at a time.
Then, too, the coming of the near Millennium, again, will only convey the fullness of time for those who have eyes to see an ears to hear. It will come only to those who wait for the coming of the kingdom in their hearts, who have an intense longing to see God. What God seems to be teaching us is that the present moment hides within it a new and glorious coming of God's kingdom that is not superimposed upon reality, but is reality itself; is our reality, our humble portion of the truth. As I shared with my friend today, living in the kingdom exacts a heavy price: we must root out of our lives all deception, all lies; we must tell the truth and live in the truth. In that way, reality will dawn upon us like the golden glow that so delighted my eye this afternoon. If we do not like our reality, we can change for the better. If our reality is deemed to be good for us we can rejoice in it and celebrate it, as I am doing at this time in my life, a gift for which I am joyfully thankful and receive as a glorious gift beyond my fondest imaginings.
It was in this context of enjoying the in-break of the kingdom into the present moment that today I was granted in the faculty of my imagination a musing of what our planet might be like at the beginning of the Fourth Millennium a thousand years hence.
Take note, first, the quantum-leap of growth which has occurred since the year 1000 when our present Millennium began. No one on earth at that time could have possibly predicted the technological and scientific and economic growth that has occurred or, for that matter, the instruments of mass destruction that now threaten our planet.
What will our world be like a thousand years from now? It could be a dead planet so destroyed by our carelessness that may render it incapable of sustaining life. But I have a more positive prediction. The earth 1000 years from now will be a beautiful park, one of the finest corners of all of God's universes. Humans will have learned to love the earth and enhance its beauty by human handiwork. Rivers and lakes will be clear, forests thick and lush, even deserts will sustain life.
The people of the earth will have learned during the Third Millennium to care for the poor. Somewhere about 2220, the peoples will have learned a great secret that was known in Jewish times -- a full ten percent tithe by working people on the planet has enhanced the standard of living of all God's people. All have a small house with nourishing food on the table. Able-bodied people have some work to enhance their dignity and to sustain a modest life. Children have access to a decent education and illiteracy among the world's people has decreased remarkably. And all have access to decent health care.
Violence has diminished remarkably. Our city streets are peaceful and delightful places to stroll about on an evening walk with the dog. Nations have reduced remarkably their investment in weapons of mass destruction and have diverted this wealth into education. Human rights, particularly the right to free speech , is now available in nearly every nation on earth. People of different races, religions, genders, and sexual orientation have learned to appreciate each others' differentness and to get along with one another.
And as for our own Catholic church, we still celebrate the holy Eucharist and the sacraments and will do so again and again until the end of time. People talk about their spiritual lives and help to bring meaning and nourishment to one another. The church has learned its lesson of the Second Millennium and no longer supports itself by violence and force. Tolerance is a key to her teaching, supporting and sustaining goodness wherever it can be found.
What became a glimpse of the kingdom at the beginning of this Millennium in the year 2000 has seen that heaven has arrived on earth. People are eager to support kingdom values and God himself supports and sustains major corporations that pledge themselves to honesty, responsibility and philanthropy. In short, the earth of the year 3000, is a place of peace and beauty and prosperity. People worship God and give God thanks and praise all over the earth.
The great covenant that God long ago established with the people of this planet has been sealed in the faith, hope and love of so many. People have opened their eyes to see that the kingdom is now present in their midst. The kingdom present to the people in the year 3000 has become a wonderful sign of God's greatness which God is eager to share with God's people forever and ever and have still more delights and wonders to bestow on us. Now back to 1997. Can we dream? Can we work to create such a world? Surely we can if we strengthen our faith, hope and love in the fullness of time in our present moment. If we don't, it will never happen. Come, Lord Jesus!