My dear Fathers, Sisters and Brothers, Grace and Peace of Christ Jesus our Lord! We are approaching the holy season of Advent. The word advent comes from the Latin for “coming” or “arrival”. What is “coming” or what is this “arrival”? The general norms of the liturgy help us to understand this better in a twofold character: It is a time of preparation when the first coming of God’s Son is recalled. It is also a season when our minds are directed by this memorial to Christ’s second coming. It is thus a season of joyful and spiritual expectation. This is not just about preparing for Christmas, but for the CHRIST who is continually ‘being born’ in our hearts and transforming the Church ever more into his body in the world; the Church is called to gather and quietly wait in hope for the coming of Christ, her bridegroom, the Light of the World. We are called to be ever attentive to the quality of our life in union with Christ. The liturgies for the Sundays of Advent, therefore, call us to be i) spiritually attentive, ii) repentant and vigilant, iii) with joyful hope, iv) awaiting his final return in glory. The “coming”, the “arrival”, then, is that “The Lord comes,” says Pope Francis, “the root of our hope: the assurance that the grace of God reaches us among the tribulations of the world, a consolation not made of words but of a PRESENCE, (the Word comes in flesh) in our midst.”
Here is “our point of departure” because “we know, that beyond every favorable or contrary event, he comes in my life, in your life…he is never tired of us, he desires to come, to visit us”, to be with us. The Gospels tell us of the dangers that obstruct the “coming”; those worldly needs that weigh down and cripple the heart from opening itself to the “arrival” of grace. In a way, “one lives from things and one does not know for what; one has many good things, but one does not do good anymore; time is thrown away in pastimes, but one does not have time for God or for others; one lives for things, but they are never enough” (Pope Francis). Advent intents to put us on our guard against all these, “be vigilant, and not give into the sleep that envelops us.” But, to be vigilant, one needs to have the certainty of attitude that the slumbary of the night cannot last always, that soon the dawn will come. So, it is for us: God comes, and his light will clear even the darkest night. We must learn not to become complacent on our own comforts and certainties, on our own established plans and practices, because He comes to lead us into newer, more beautiful and richer dimensions of life. We know well, in the light of the pandemic crisis this year, Advent season that culminates in the Nativity feast of the Lord will be different than usual. We also know from the Gospels that Jesus the Son of God, born in Bethlehem too experienced along with his ‘lowly’ parents such fear, unease and uncertainty (cf.Mt.2:13-15,19-23). But, they were simply undeterred by the odds that surrounded them externally. Deeply attentive to events, Mary the Mother of Jesus, does not let herself be dragged along by misfortune; she goes against the tide and is able to recognize the traces of God’s spirit in events great and small, she reflects – “pondering in her heart” – on the mystery of God in our lives and seeks to understand reality, she decides to commit herself; and is completely ready with a generous and convincing response, “Behold, I am” (Lk.1:38). This interior openness, the inner readiness, the total giving of the self with the humility and courage of Mary is essential if we want to say ‘Yes’ to God who is “coming”, whose “arrival” we await. This advent, still under threat of pandemic fear, is prompting all of us to look inward and connect to our deeper selves. This holy season inspires the whole Church to renew our way of daily living…a reminder for us to re-make our relationship with God, his creation and our fellow brothers and sisters. We need to embrace a new spirit that entails spreading love and peace; and building circles of compassion for a life of solidarity and fraternity. It is the time to accept that it is not just enough to survive, rather, we need to be “fully alive”, and find our own ‘value of being alive’. Let us ask Mary, Virgin and Mother, who moved by the Holy Spirit, welcomed the Word of Life in the depths of her humble heart; may she who gave herself completely to the Eternal Word, help us to say our own “yes” to the One who is “coming” to “make all things new”(Rev.21:5).