We take leave today of our presentation of parish ministries in order to usher in a new liturgical year, and its blessed first season: the season of Advent. There is a beautiful prayer that comes immediately after the Our Father at every mass, and that to me, sums up nicely the essence of Advent. It ends with what used to be the words: “… as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Therein lies the essence of Advent – waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord. But do we really wait in joyful hope? Is our hope really joyful? What does it take for a hope to be joyful? Isn’t it simply that a hope is joyful, to the extent that it is firm? The more firm is our hope of a good thing, the more joyful it is. So is there anything we can do to make our hope joyful? To make it firm, so that it can be joyful? Bottom line: firmness of hope in the coming of our Lord is a matter of grace, not willpower. It follows from this that there are two things we can do.
The first, since firmness of hope is a gift of the Holy Spirit, is that we pray earnestly for this gift. Grace, by definition, cannot be forced. But it can be asked for. So let’s develop the habit, during this Advent season, of asking every day for the gift of firmness of hope.
There is a second thing we can do. When you want to cool down on a hot day, you go to a place where a breeze is blowing. We can do the same with respect to the grace of God. We can position ourselves in such a way as to optimize the odds of “catching” grace. How does one do that? Well, there are a number of ways, such as regular attendance at mass, and keeping company with people who in our eyes are of firm faith. But there is another, very excellent way.
Hope is firm to the extent that it is enlightened. I know of no better enlightenment for our hope than Sacred Scripture. The mass lectionary has gathered together for the season of Advent, some of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture. Let’s not miss out on this opportunity of grace. Let’s be very down to earth. Hearing the texts of Scripture during the Liturgy of Word and reading along as they are proclaimed is already very good. But we can do more, we can do better. Indeed, we must do more if the texts are to penetrate our minds and hearts, and become an abiding light.
We must read them again, in a quiet place and time, attentively, giving them the time it takes to “soak into” our hearts and minds. This is possible for absolutely anyone. Let me point out, if you haven’t already noticed it, that the reference for all the readings of any given Sunday are always on the first page of the parish bulletin. Either take the bulletin home with you, or take note of the references. If one of the texts read at mass strike a chord in you, go home with the reference, one way or another, and take the time to re-read it quietly, attentively, slowly, perhaps a few times during the week. If you don’t have a Bible at home, with a reference, you can access any text in the Bible by going to a website called Bible Gateway. I can basically guarantee that anyone who does this will, by the end of this short season of Advent, have a hope more luminous, more firm, more joyful than they did when they entered into it.
This is the grace of God that I ask for all of us in this blessed season of Advent.
Have a good Advent season and God bless,