For me, one of the most important scriptural references to God’s saving mystery is found in Ephesians 1:7-10, reproduced here from the NRSV.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
I am fascinated by the notion of all things being gathered to God, a theme hinted at, for example, in passages such as Isaiah 2:1-5 (a reading for Monday 3 December), Isaiah 66:18-21, and Jeremiah 3:14-17. I am therefore fascinated by the ways in which the reading from Baruch 5:1-9 for the Second Sunday of Advent this year associates the idea of gathering with themes of justice, glory, and joy / rejoicing. Here is the text from the NABRE, with capitalization for emphasis.
Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of GLORY from God forever:
wrapped in the cloak of JUSTICE from God,
bear on your head the mitre
that displays the GLORY of the eternal name.
For God will show all the earth your splendor:
you will be named by God forever
the peace of JUSTICE, the GLORY of God’s worship.
Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;
look to the east and see your children
GATHERED from the east and the west
at the word of the Holy One,
REJOICING that they are remembered by God.
Led away on foot by their enemies they left you:
but God will bring them back to you
borne aloft in GLORY as on royal thrones.
For God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
and that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that Israel may advance secure in the GLORY of God.
The forests and every fragrant kind of tree
have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;
for God is leading Israel in JOY
by the light of his GLORY,
with his mercy and JUSTICE for company.
This passage is unique among all the readings used on any of the Sundays of Advent in any liturgical year. It is the only one that refers to each of the themes of “joy / rejoicing,” “glory / glorious,” “just / justice,” and “gather.” In fact, the Second Sunday of Advent of Year C is the only Sunday of Advent in any liturgical year in which all four of these themes appear in the readings of the day.
The in-gathering to God is a phenomenon that manifests and realizes God’s glory. It is accompanied by justice and right relationship among creatures and between creatures and Creator. It is a cause for joy. Every sacramental celebration is a real symbol of the progression of the Paschal mystery. Indeed, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it in no. 571: “In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold.”
Our readings for the Second Sunday of Advent this year remind us that the Advent of the Messiah is the Advent of justice and joy, of the glory of God on display in creation, and of communion and partnership with God. God’s justice is here and yet in the face of injustice there is always more justice to be had. Joy is here but in the face of sorrow there is always more joy to be had. Glory is here but in the face of a disfigured creation there is always more glory to encounter. There are ties that bind us together but in the face of xenophobia and hatred there is always more communion to build.
Advent is already and not yet.