Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Season of Hope

First Sunday of Advnt
During the Christmas holiday season, many yearn for a “secret to happiness.”  An author writes that all it takes to be happy is to forgive, apologize, listen to advice, check your temper, share the blame, make the best out of certain situations, and put the needs of others first.

Let’s practice as many of these as we can.  We’ll soon have a more positive outlook.  That’s what Advent is all about: hope in the future—a glorious future.  And so we pray during Advent: Come, Lord Jesus and transfigure us into new creatures; and re-create this universe of ours into a "new heaven and a new earth."

Some families create a wreath with four candles, and pray in their own words for the coming anew of the Messiah in their lives.  Others make a Jesse or genealogy tree, recalling the story of salvation.  Still others set up a Nativity scene and family members take turns telling the meaning of Christmas: or God-with-us, Emmanuel.  These are but a few customs to celebrate Advent.

The Word of God in Sunday’s liturgy describes the eighth century before Jesus.  The Assyrian armies overran northern Israel.  Despite this catastrophe, the prophet Isaiah speaks about hope, a major theme of Advent.  He proclaims that people everywhere “shall go up” to the Temple in Jerusalem—which symbolizes God’s presence—not only to hear the Word of God but to do the Word.

During global, political and “mother nature” challenges, we may recall a poem of William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood dimm’d tide is loosed, the best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

But Advent speaks loudly and clearly against those sentiments.  Advent invites us to reflect on the threefold coming of Jesus.  Yes, Jesus came to us centuries ago in Bethlehem of Judea; He comes to us now sacramentally in the liturgy; and He will come again with great power and glory at the end-time.

Paul in his letter to the Christian community speaks about his life and ours drawing closer to the end every day—whether that be Christ’s glorious return or our individual entry into eternity. “Stay awake, be ready, live in the light,” writes St. Paul.  Practice virtue. Care for one another, pray earnestly, please God.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus speaks about watchfulness or readiness.  Jesus may come to us suddenly.  We take so much for granted, don't we?   One another, God and His gifts to us, our freedoms and opportunities.  We take tomorrow for granted.

The Word of God says clearly: don't take tomorrow for granted.  This Advent season, may the Lord help us bring peace to those who are troubled; faith to those who doubt; hope to those who despair; courage to those who are weak; healing to those who are sick; joy to those who are sad; a compass to those who are lost; life everlasting to those who have died.

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