Advent is a beautiful time in the Church year but it is a short season. This year we have a meager 23 days to savor its blessings and already we are halfway through the season!
In our diocese, the theme for Advent is “Awaiting the Good News.” When was the last time you had to wait? Was it at a traffic light, the checkout line at the grocery store, or perhaps at an airport security checkpoint? At these times, waiting is experienced often as an inconvenience, a hurdle we need to bypass so we can move on to where we are going. Impatience and sometimes annoyance accompany our waiting in these situations.
There are, however, other experiences of waiting that are marked by expectation and joy, wonder and hope, such as waiting for a child to be born, welcoming home family members for a special occasion, or the waiting associated with Advent. For 23 days, we wait to commemorate the birth of the Child who brought us salvation. We wait for His coming into our hearts when we are open to receive Him. We wait for His final coming at the end of time.
Might I suggest that in the remaining days of Advent you choose companions for the journey. Let Isaiah, John the Baptist, and our Blessed Mother be your guides as you “Await the Good News.”
Isaiah lived in times similar to our own. There was political intrigue, aggressive world powers, and military strategies designed to provide security and peace. Isaiah saw beneath and beyond these realities. He proclaimed a time when weapons of war would be turned into plowshares and pruning hooks: “One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (Is 2:4). He spoke about a shoot sprouting from the stump of Jesse and announced a time of peace when the “calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to lead them” (Is 11:6). The child will be the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6).
“Isaiah gives us the language of hope for our own time. His prophetic vision is not a naïve optimism that everything will be just fine. It is a profound truth proclaimed in the prayer we hear just after the Our Father at each Mass: ‘We await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ’” (Father Craig E. Morrison, Give us This Day, December 2018). Invite Isaiah to be your companion on your Advent journey.
John the Baptist, a lone figure in the desert, dressed in animal skin, eating bugs and honey, and shouting about the need for repentance, is not a particularly appealing sight. He is, however, a worthy Advent companion. His message is important: “Prepare the way of the Lord!”
When crowds asked John the Baptist what they had to do to prepare for the Lord, he gave them very practical advice: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. . . . Whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk 3:10). Tax collectors should “stop collecting more than what is prescribed” and soldiers should “not practice extortion or falsely accuse anyone and be satisfied with their wages” (Lk 3:12-14). John the Baptist tells us that preparing the way of the Lord means being attentive to the needs of others, treating others fairly, and being faithful to the responsibilities of our state in life.
We need a companion like John the Baptist to remind us to prepare God’s path to our hearts and cultivate an awareness of how near He is to us. Turning toward Him will always include turning away from sin and evil inclinations that are obstacles to His coming. It will always mean turning more fully toward others and seeing Christ in them.
In a special way, Advent is Mary’s time. We hear how she listened to God’s word, how she responded to it and reached out to others with the Word she harbored within her. As we practice our Advent theme “Awaiting the Good News,” let us recognize as Mary did the responsibility to share the Good News.
As a young, pregnant woman, certainly there was much to do to prepare for the birth of her child. Yet, Mary took the time to visit her aged cousin Elizabeth who was also expecting a child. Mary’s focus was not on herself and all she needed to do but on another.
We are called to share the good news as Mary did. Can we bring Jesus to wherever and whomever He directs us? Most likely He will lead us to very ordinary places and situations: perhaps to patience with interruptions during times of busy preparations for Christmas; perhaps to the gift of time for our children, aging parents, a sick friend; perhaps to reconciliation with an estranged family member or co-worker. Walk with Mary as a companion and do not miss the opportunities to bring Christ to others and recognize Him in others.
“Come, Lord Jesus . . . Come in your way and renew today’s world. And come into our hearts, come and renew our lives . . . so that we ourselves may become the light of God’s presence in your world” (Benedict XVI, General Audience, November 12, 2008).
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.