Advent time to exercise hope
With today's celebration we begin the liturgical season of Advent. Our Sunday readings along with all the readings of this season are a strong, deep, coherent and beautiful message of hope. We must prepare then to find out the richness in what sounds easy and difficult at the same time: learn to wait.
In the first reading, "the days are coming" and with these words we have received a clue of what Advent means: Advent is a time for looking forward to the future. When we only stay in the present age, in the here and now, we make ourselves incapable of giving a direction to our lives. It’s like driving: we can't go forward focusing on the rearview mirror. Life, like it or not, goes forward. Advent is about what is coming.
What we wait for is not an "ordinary day". But extraordinary days don’t just come on their own. They are a gift, and that means Someone gives them to us. God is the giver; He gives flavor and color to history. That is the essence of Jewish and Christian faith rooted in God and with a realistic life in the world: we are in this world but we are waiting for "the new days that are coming" says The Lord. There is SOMEONE that announces this good news.
We can say even something else… the One who with His Words announces the future is the One who with His Words shaped our past. History has a cadence, a specific direction that goes from a promise to the fulfillment of that promise. The promise is in the past and the fulfillment in the future. What happens in the present? Our present is the time in between the promise and the fulfillment… and when we trust in the one promising we call that HOPE.
What is the promise for that new time?
Even though the first reading was short, there are at least four things that we can find helpful. First, that God announces the reestablishment of the house of David; second that God asks the practice of real justice on earth; third, God promises peace for Jerusalem and finally the coming of Salvation (redemption) . These four clues form "a program" that is going to lead us during this liturgical season of Advent. We are going to see it happening from general events in the firsts readings until the realization of our HOPE and JOY Jesus Christ at Christmas
Learn to wait
The second reading is taken from one of the first documents of the New Testament (and perhaps one of the first to be written). This piece of information is important because we know for sure that the frist generation of Christians lived their HOPE in a very intense way. They expected the prompt and almost immediate return of Christ. That was in the air that the first Christians breathed when Paul wrote in the first letter to the Thessalonians.
In this sense, the second reading this Sunday offers a genuine model of the Christian ‘attitude of expectation’ of the Second Coming of Our Lord. From that attitude we can draw helpful lessons for our own spiritual preparation this Advent.
First, St. Paul insists first on fraternal love. This is important in our individualistic society: there is no "individualistic” hope, clearly fruit of a wrong conception of salvation, separated and isolated from the community. In today’s screen-oriented society, are we retreating from meaningful contact with our neighbor in favor of indirect, edited interactions through facebook, etc? Genuine HOPE is lived in community, it hopes for things that the community will experience together. Christians are called to live in communion, both here on earth and in Heaven. Anything else does not come from the Holy Spirit. In fact, through the Holy Spirit, the communion of the saints in Heaven begins here on earth!
The second lesson of the Apostle is temperance. Knowledge of the coming of the Lord is an invitation to take seriously all His words, His legacy and all the strength of His light. This means to be conscious of the grace that had blessed our past and of the glory that God is approaching. Let’s not be distracted during our time of waiting by overindulging on the things of this world; food, drink, entertainment, unnecessary busyness. The things of this world should be used to make us more prepared to meet Our Lord, not less. As the holiday season approaches, this is a challenge,but a challenge worth meeting.
Prayer and vigilance
The gospel on the other hand brings to us the call form Christ in the particular context on universal commotion that will preceed His glorious second coming. We can learn at least twon things from this. First that Advent is more that just a preparation to remember Cristmas. Actually the Liturgical Season of Advent has two parts very well diferenciated like we comented in other occasions: a) that starts this Sunday actually focus in the return of The King, The second coming of Our Lord and b) that starts the week before christmas that focuses more in the circumstances of the birth of Our Saviour as a token of our hope in the definitive fulfillment of God's promises.
Secondly lets learn also from the gospel that as it is true that there is a clear journey marked with hope, the one of the real beleivers, there are also other journeys maeked with disolution, confusión, distracción and dispar. Jesus is clear: "Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times". we can also be distracted by that to the point that we can make ourselves incapable of recognizing His presence, blessings and promise of salvation among us. for the ones that are distracted the return of Christ will be like a trap.
From this reflection we can aknoledge more the gifts that protects HOPE: Watch and pray (Mk 14: 38). Todays is a little bit different: "Be vigilant at all times and pray" lk (21: 36). If we remember those where the two recommendations at Getsemani. There is something deep here. The Advent in the Church even though is marked with a deep joy, has also an aspect of Getsemani. In the mean time that we await The Lord, in some way we need to walk the road that we live when He walked so that we can participate in His Passion and after that with a full Heart His Resurrection in Easter
Heavenly Father, I gladly spend a few minutes with you, to be close to you, because you know how much I need your presence and grace in my life. You deserve to be the center of my thoughts and desires; but often I let myself be taken up by the anxieties of daily life. Sorry Lord, but at least here I am right now, hungry for you alone. Today, Lord, I accompany the whole Church as we begin the Advent Season and begin to prepare for your coming to earth as a baby on Christmas morning
Lord, prepare my heart for your coming at Christmas.
Lord, help me during this Advent Season, which begins today, to see that the priority in my life is preparing myself and those around me for a truly “spiritual” Christmas. I know it is a busy time of year. Help me remain focused on what is essential -- you being born into our hearts.