With Advent in view, an initial reflection ...

With over 550 million dollars up for chance this past week, Powerball fever easily gripped people’s lives and started the wheels of hope spinning. Reporters asked people in long lines, “Do you know the odds of winning?” Many responded, “I don’t care what they are, I’m going to win! - I have the winning ticket!” You heard confidence in their voice and saw joy on their faces. For many, you also heard generosity as they planned to give a share to family and friends.
In some respects, Powerball fever offered a glimpse – albeit a small one at that – as to the Christian virtue of Hope. Many confuse hope with expectation, wish or desire. Often people ‘understand’ hope as some naïve Pollyanna, whimsical, dream-world approach to living that is disconnected with the cold and harshness of day-to-day living. Hope is the theological Gift from God our Father that fills one with confidence and joy. Hope is the conviction that the Divine Persons are deeply at work in our lives and in the world drawing us to a genuine love through obstacles that each of us believes to be insurmountable. In Advent, Mary – Mother of God – teaches us how to be people of hope. She proclaims with boldness and confidence of the Spirit: “for nothing will be impossible for God (Luke 1:37).”

No doubt, many will quip, ‘Some of that $550 million sure would be nice’ – and yet – there is a part of us that wants ‘something’ deeper. In Advent, especially in this Year of Faith, we are draw to the realization that this ‘it’ is not ‘something’ I/we need – rather, the reality is Someone I/we need: the Person, Jesus Christ. When it comes to this defining relationship of our lives, the prayer following the Lord’s Prayer at every Mass can guide the Advent journey. The Church prays: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of Your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
  • Deliverance from every evil.
  • Peace in our days.
  • Freedom from sin.
  • Safe[ty] from all distress.
Might any of these four be a dream that you nurture deep within, wondering if any or all 4 will ever become a reality in your life? The world repeats and old message: there will always be evil in the world, peace will never come, we will always sin and we will have to find ways to medicate and to cope with distress in our lives. The repetitive and old message of pessimism and despair is real in the sense that anyone of us can give into its life-robbing power. The irony is that in the Face of Jesus Christ, these realities have no power; but WE give them power when we acknowledge their repetitive and old existence. Discovering the singular, unique newness of Who Jesus is, the result is the destroying of evil, the providing of peace, the giving of freedom from sin and leading us to safety from all distress.
Thus we come to the “work” of Advent. Yes, Advent as a way of life is a work, a work of responding to the new creation in our midst that is Jesus. Centuries ago, Saint Irenaeus wrote: “You must realize that He Who was promised has brought something totally new by giving us Himself.” Advent is a way of living life that proclaims boldly Jesus makes all things new (Revelation 21:5) and consequently there is no room for a repetitive, old message of evil, unrest, sin and distress. Allowing oneself to be found by Jesus Christ (in other words, not seeking after as if “I” must find Him) unleashes power that floods life with deliverance, peace, no sin and no distress. It begins by pondering, “how is Jesus new in my life?”
Consider this Advent scheduling a definite time each day for real silence and the praying of the Psalms. Silence gives Our Lord the time and space to work in our lives. The Psalms (especially 42, 46 and 63) can help deepen not only heart but also mind and body into longing for Our Lord and Savior, Jesus. And then prayer-time can be rounded out by real ‘sounds of the Season’ – “Advent at Ephesus.” This recording of chant by a group of Benedictine Sisters is a true gift for Advent (also available through iTunes).

Another venerable Advent practice is the home Advent Wreath. Click here for the Scriptures and Prayers.

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