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November 30, 2003

The Advent Season of Hope and Prayer

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and that we can make this holy season of Advent a special time of hope and prayer and grace and light and waiting for Jesus. Advent is my favorite season, more than Lent, because it’s a time of wonder and grace and expectation as we open our hearts and keep lookout for Christ.

Our Gospel is from the end of Luke, just before Jesus is arrested, and Jesus tells us to get ready, that Christ is coming, to put it bluntly, that the end of the world is coming, or the end of the world as we know it, or the end of our lives, so Jesus tells us to be on alert, to notice the signs of nature and the signs of the times, from the sun and the moon and the stars, to the nations of the world in all their turmoil and dismay--which we see on TV every night--and to be vigilant for Christ and to “stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand.” So although the coming of Christ and the turmoil of the world sound pretty scary to most, for us as people of faith and hope and love, the Gospel says all we have to do is have courage, hold our heads high, and keep our chins up because Jesus is coming, redemption is at hand, the reign of God is here, and everything is going to be alright.

The Gospel tells us that we don’t know when God is coming, just that God is definitely coming, and we have to get ready. So today’s Gospel give us some specific advice: Beware about our hearts. Don’t give in to problems and anxieties of the world. Be vigilant at all times and pray for strength to escape tribulations and to stand before Christ.

I just want to reflection on three things I hear in our Gospel: redemption, hope, and prayer.

First, our Gospel and Advent tell us that “our redemption is at hand.” What does that mean? Fundamentally we are all sinners, we’re all broken, we’re all victims of the culture of war and the world of injustice, we all have terrible problems and no matter how hard we try, we cannot fix them and no matter what, we are all going to die. But the Gospel says that Jesus is coming to the rescue, to redeem us, help us, heal us, fix us, save us and make everything work out and this is just what we need! This is good news.

Second, our Gospel and Advent are about hope. The world tells us we’re doomed, there’s no hope, there’s nothing we can do, war will always occur, the powerful will always crush us, go ahead and wallow in your despair, but the Gospel says, “Be vigilant! Be on the lookout!” That means to me that we are people of hope. We are looking for change, we keep watch for the coming of Christ, not in some distant future, but right now, today, in the present. We live in relationship to God and to our redeemer, and so we place our hope and trust and obedience in Jesus. To be Advent people is to live in hope right now.

Finally, our Gospel and Advent call us to get ready for Jesus, an specifically, Luke urges us to pray for the strength to stand before Christ, to spend time in prayer, to take quality time every day in silent prayer, to keep vigil by sitting in the presence of God, talking to God, listening for God, and being in the presence of God. So I want to invite us all to take time this Advent to renew our prayer lives, to go deeper into the spiritual life, to spend quality time in contemplative prayer with the God of peace, to wait in hope in the silence of deep meditation for Christ, to attend daily Mass when we can, to participation in our Advent reconciliation services and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to renounce our inner violence and sinfulness and to do as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians, “to increase and abound in love for one another, to strengthen our hearts, and grow in holiness.”

So this Advent, as we await our redemption, stand in hope, and pray for the gift of Christ’s peace, we can sing our Advent song of hope, “O come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom us ‘captive Israel’ that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice, O ‘Israel,’ to you shall come Emmanuel!”


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