Sunday, December 2, is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year and a four-week period of special readings and prayers to prepare us for the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, as an infant, the son of Mary.
Our Jewish ancestors traveled a rocky road during their entire history. And all through that history there were prophets who urged them to keep hoping that one day the reign of God would become a reality. That is also what we are hoping for today — that God’s reign will come on earth as it is in heaven.
In the first reading for Sunday Jeremiah speaks words of hope to a people enslaved and in a pitiable condition.
Yet, Jeremiah says: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he will do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: ‘The Lord our justice.'” (Jeremiah 33: 14-16)
We know that our redemption has already dawned with the coming of Jesus. But we also know that we don’t always see the reality of Christ’s presence in our own lives and in the world, so we need to go back every year and focus again on Jesus coming in the flesh. We also need to read the signs of the times so that we can make Christ’s presence in our lives and in the world a reality, not a far off dream.
And when we look around and see how many public officials have betrayed the trust we placed in them, we can lose heart. Many seem to have placed their own personal advantage ahead of that of the people. So many families are in disarray; hostility, anger, violence seems to be everywhere. And the sinfulness of our own church, due to human frailty, has left many of us disheartened and ready to leave the community of faith.
If these are the signs of the times, how can we remain hopeful? But these are not the only signs! In spite of all the violence, suffering and selfishness, we see heroism, love, respect, understanding, honesty, and unselfish service of others. In many of our brothers and sisters we see real holiness and fidelity. Our church, our government, our neighborhoods and our families have men and women who are on fire for justice and peace.
The four weeks of Advent give us a wonderful opportunity to go back and reflect on the fact that we can be transformed by the grace of God. We can prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, once again. We can change.
“Stand erect and raise your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke)