First Sunday of Advent - Sunday Reflection
Posted: Sat, 27 Nov 2021 14:15
May I wish you a very happy new year! The First Sunday of Advent marks the start of the new Church year, and this year our gospel of focus will be Luke. Scholars agree that This evangelist was Greek, probably from Antioch. He is a key figure in the canon of the New Testament, as both this gospel and the Acts of the Apostles are ascribed to him. Tradition has it that he was a medic and an artist, with some seeing him as one of Seventy Disciples sent on Mission.
I was looking back in my journal for this day last year: I prayed that Advent 2021 would find us in a much better place. To be fair, I think that prayer has been answered but we have been made all too aware of our vulnerability. Indeed, these past twenty-two months have helped us to see the validity of today's gospel:
'There will be strange things happening to the sun, the moon, and the stars. On earth whole countries will be in despair, afraid of the roar of the sea and the raging tides. People will faint from fear as they wait for what is coming over the whole earth, for the powers in space will be driven from their courses' (Lk 21:25-26).
Luke writes this apocalyptic warning in the context of the destruction of the sacred Jerusalem Temple. I certainly hope that you have not 'fainted from fear' during these unusual times. COVID-19 has certainly been a challenge and we have had to draw on inner strengths that many of us did not know we had. I suspect that the greatest characteristic that we have had to draw on is hope. In the depth of the pandemic lockdown when so much was closed down, we needed the hope of the apostles in the Upper Room. In their lockdown, Peter, Mary, and the disciples needed hope, even after they met the Lord of new life. They needed the new and transformative gift of the Holy Spirit to enable them to move on. As a Church we are invited to share that hope with all. Only last Easter, in the darkness of St Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis lit a solitary candle and proclaimed, 'in these dark months of the pandemic, let us listen to the risen Lord as he invites us to begin anew and never lose hope.' (05/04/2021)
On this first day of Advent, we are offered transformative hope also. Like any new year, today offers us the chance to make a new start in this spirit of hope. We begin a Camino of hope over these next few weeks—the media will try to tell us that Christmas has already arrived. If we buy into their logic, there is a real chance that we could miss out on the beauty of this season. It is a time when we can take stock of our lives and truly prepare for December 25th, which is still a month away. Jesus cautions each of us as we start this Camino:
'Be on watch and pray always that you will have the strength to go safely through all those things that will happen and to stand before the Son of Man' (Lk 21:36).
We are coming up to the second anniversary of the start of the Covid pandemic. Two years of change, challenge, heartache, and survival. Many of us will have lost loved ones, many of us still miss loved ones, and many of us got through because of our hope. We trusted in the promise of God to be with us in the most horrible of situations. As we now prepare to remember the first coming of Jesus in Bethlehem, Luke is helping his community to prepare for the second coming. He offers us hope also, and the chance to see beyond trees, lights, and glitter already up on our high streets and shopping centres. I urge you to have one simple decoration this Advent: as you light that single candle of hope today, we can really look forward to an outpouring of light as we can fully celebrate the gift of Christmas. Luke Schumann offers this poem to encourage our own sense of hope in these days:
This is the season
we are in need of most
at the moment, for now
is at last the time when
Hope seeps in
and sticks out
like an unmatched sock.
This is when our theology
can be found in its purist form, for it is
preached not as fact or stat
or system, but instead
as its true identity:
metaphor, art, narrative, and poetry,
in prophecy of the coming Saviour;
the One who restores
and turns all our tragic stories
into songs of redemption.
Written by Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB