Advent is a season of preparation for the birth of Jesus. Preceding Christmas, it reminds us that God so loved the world that He wanted to send his only Son to be born as one of us, in order to redeem and renew creation. In this particular Advent, we have the seeds of a new spirit of life in our Church, thanks to the recent Jubilee Year of Mercy. It’s now up to us to nurse those seeds into a rebirth of Catholic discipleship and witness mercy in our parish and in our families in the years ahead.
This season of heightened awareness invites us to see ourselves as God sees us, insofar as that is possible. Its liturgies as well as life itself point us towards the future. This week and throughout the season, we’ll hear Isaiah call us to confess our sins and hope for better days. Then, we see that Paul’s message in Corinthians is confident and upbeat. St. Mark warns us against any complacency, since the end can come sooner than we might expect.
Alerted by these concerns, we might go search the first and third readings of this First Sunday of Advent’s liturgy, about our being prepared for the day of the Lord. Isaiah invites us to reassess how God is leading us. This reminder that the world as we know it will end one day, is especially meaningful in our northern hemisphere’s fall season, when daylight is shorter and darkness seems to be winning over light. But the positive side of this is that a new day is dawning, when Christ will come again into our lives with power to save us.
In his letter, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis reminds us what we have to be joyful about, as followers of Christ. Advent would be an excellent time to re-read and take his message to heart, and maybe even make a new beginning in our Catholic lives. It’s a designated time to open our hearts and invite the Lord to come more fully into our lives and lead us on. We’ll learn of this more when Jeff Cavins speaks to us in a few short weeks.
We begin Advent feeling the need for God’s coming. The reading from Isaiah puts this need into words, “We have all withered like leaves and our sins blew us away like the wind.” The whirling of withered leaves in autumn is a familiar scene to many, especially in places like the northern part of Florida. Isaiah proposes whirling leaves as symbols of all that is dried up and withered in our lives. But he also calls us to look for a better day. God is still in charge of creation, and our personal lives are under his loving care.
As we pray this Advent, “Come, Lord Jesus,” we could make the words of the psalm our own: “Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has chosen.” It is a central plank of our faith that the Lord never abandons His people. To this end, St. Paul offers this guarantee: “You will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ.” He also spells out the kind of behavior that goes with “darkness” or alienation from Christ, things like promiscuity and lust, envy, drunkenness and rivalry. We have clear choices to make.
Just watch the faces of people at airports, waiting for loved ones to arrive from a flight, especially during this holiday season. They look excited, eager for the first sight of a familiar face, ready with a broad smile of greeting. Would we await the Lord’s coming with equal eagerness, because we long for his presence?
Advent is not the time for Christmas music or Christmas parties. We have enough worldly distractions of the media to do that. It’s meant to be a time to keep us in an alert, active waiting, including having a spirit of excitement, or as Jesus puts it, “Be on guard, stay awake.” He wants us to have a clear purpose in life, to mature in our relationships with Him and with others, to give time to prayer, and to live with his message in our hearts. That’s what our Advent should be like. Then, when the waiting is over, we can enjoy his promised gifts! Happy Advent!!