Advent with its calm and reflective balm orientates us and renews us with a gentle vitality in the ebb and flow of our daily lives. We may take more time to explore our personal challenges and may experience a deepening need for a durable inner fulfilment that can sometimes seem to almost overwhelm us and even disorientate us. The greatest illusion into which we risk falling is that our happiness and the fulfilment of our expectations depend on us and must be fulfilled within the narrow confines of earthly history. In the biblical texts of this First Sunday of Advent, a truth is announced to us that has the strength to pierce any darkness: “The Lord is coming! The Lord is faithful to His promises”!
Advent is a propitious time to make a joyful recollection of the Lord’s fidelity to His promises. He comes to give us salvation, to fill us with His life-giving presence, to free us from the evil that may oppress us, to make us partakers of eternal life.
Advent is the time when we can decide how to direct our hearts, minds, souls, and actions towards the Lord, to make our human existence a cradle capable of welcoming Him, the Only God and Saviour of all humanity with love, gratitude and docility, and to thank Him for the gift of Grace that He brings with Him in abundance for all.
In the Liturgy of this First Sunday of Advent, the prayer after Communion focuses us on the reality of the Eucharist, the irreplaceable heart of the Christian experience. In the Word and actions of the Mass, we recognize the Mystery of the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus present and alive; it is the living Jesus who saves us, who recapitulates creation and history in Himself. He nourishes us with His Body and Blood to support us in our daily labours and gives us the pledge of eternal happiness with Him.
“The Lord is coming”: it is an announcement that revitalises life itself and gives such joyful hope. In the Eucharist this promise becomes reality. This announcement is followed by a pressing invitation: Raise up your heads!
Raising up our heads: recognising that our life cannot be understood if we only begin from within ourselves, when in fact, we should begin by listening to Him who is the Way, Truth and Life; as Our Holy Father, Pope Francis reminds us: “welcoming the people who live next to us not as strangers to be feared, but as brothers and sisters to be loved, because they are children of a single heavenly Father”; and furthermore to respect the reality that surrounds us as a gift that comes from the provident hands of the Creator and was entrusted to us for the good of all humanity and to “cultivate” it, to make it an incessant hymn of praise to the Creator.
The Lord never tires of His creation or of our fragile humanity, indeed no, for despite our infidelities, our selfishness, and our sins He faithfully, time after time, mercifully and lovingly binds our wounds, calms our anxieties, heals us, sets us free and ultimately saves us. Confident in His eternal mercy let us raise our gaze to the Lord and invoke His salvation: Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay!
* Custody of the Holy Land
Fr John Luke Gregory, ofm*