REFLECTION FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT: HOPE
The First Sunday of advent usually brings thoughts of the Advent wreath with one lonely candle flickering, of the verse “Prepare the way of the Lord,” of delighted anticipation of Christmas Mass, family gatherings and gifts, of sleigh bells. Of a winter wonderland. This Christmas, while in some ways the same, is in many ways, very different. The whole world is gripped by a pandemic which is taking lives, bringing terrible illness, and, worst of all, enclosing us in fear.
We may turn to our Scripture readings for comfort, only to find that the hearts of the people are suffering, that they have turned away from God, that they live in fear “that our iniquities, like the wind” will take us away. What are we to do when our physical world, our national and international world, perhaps even our world of religion, seems to crumble, and we are full of fear and disillusionment?
In today’s Gospel reading though, the voice of Jesus cries: “Be alert, awaken, for you know not the hour when Jesus will come.” We must keep awake, not for destruction, but for the coming of Jesus in glory and love. We need to turn to the theological virtue of Hope, infused into each one of us in Baptism. Jesus will come in many ways, perhaps at a time we least expect, to bring new life, to change our hearts, so that we may view God not as One who punishes, but as One who strengthens, bringing new life in the virtue of Hope. Christ will come to deliver us from suffering, to restore us to life, free from fear, filled with trust and hope in God. The psalmist writes:
My soul languishes for you, my salvation. I hope in your word.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten nor the poor perish forever.
We have such hope that we are able to say with Saint Paul:
Since then we have such hopes, we are able to act with great boldness.
Let us remember that hope is always there, if we are aware of it, welcome it and practice it.
Emily Dickinson, the American poet, writes about hope, in words we may Recall when the going gets tough:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all —