Second Sunday of Advent
December 4, 2011
“Living into the Reality of Advent Today: A Call to Community of Hope"
Maryanne Confoy, RSC
Why did it take the early Church around four hundred years to begin to celebrate Christmas and what is it that we as church today are preparing for? It is important to remember that the northern Advent period is characterized by long hours of winter darkness. The struggle between dark and light is dramatically experienced in the winter months, and often, no less in our own lives. In this second week of Advent we are invited to reflect on God’s promise of mercy and faithfulness for all people and for our world even in times of darkness, doubt and isolation.
We read that "God is patient" with us, waiting for us to learn from both our successes and our failures. Last week we reflected on trusting hope, this week we learn a patient hope - with ourselves, with others and even with our God - as we live our own Christian Story in community. The place where we discover and learn most about patient hope is in our efforts to live genuinely in our families, in our friendship and social and workplace contexts.
In our communal lives we are both confirmed in and confronted by the relationships that shape our experiences of identity and of belonging. Our day by day living opens us to who we are, in the personal, family and communal stories that we carry and that we are reworking in and through our daily choices and situations. While we celebrate some of our actions and decisions, there are others which carry sadness or shame. We also carry questions within ourselves, or even confusion or anger as to why some things have happened to us or to those we love.
The Christian Story of God's unconditional and transforming love for all people reminds us that while we cannot change the facts of our lives, what we or others have done, we can change how we understand ourselves and our world. In the crucible of suffering we grow in compassionate understanding - for ourselves, others, and for our world. We might ask ourselves in what way our Baptismal identity and call can help us to understand the meaning of "the new heavens and new earth" (2 Peter3: 11) that Advent promises.
Even in what appears to be the defeat or death of all hope, regeneration is promised. In the story of one simple family who struggled to understand what was being asked of them, we find a reason and a model for our own efforts to keep hope alive. The story of Mary and Joseph and their patient hope when they were confronted with their questions and doubts has given meaning and courage to faith communities across the millennia. This first Christian Story is being lived again with newness of faith, love and hope in the darkness and light of our own lives.
Advent reminds us that our personal, family and community stories can be transformed in and through our growing understanding that our capacity to both give and receive love, to give and receive forgiveness, and that through our commitment to work together for justice and peace locally and globally, the Christian Story is coming to fullness of life.
The USCCB Statement, Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium reminds us of our baptismal call to community, and that every Christian community has its own story which contributes to the transformation of the Body of Christ. Our present story is one of a body broken - in its suffering people: at leadership level and at the parish community level. The invitation for us as members of this community of faith, love and a trusting, patient hope is together to regenerate new life in our world.
Why did it take the early Church so long to celebrate Christmas and what is it that we as church today are preparing for? We know that as darkness and light are the rhythm of nature, they are also integral rhythms in our human journey. Our answer may be found in the opening prayer for this Sunday, "May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom which fills the mind of those who find God" and this vision of wisdom is of our God as shepherd who seeks out and finds his sheep, holds them close and leads them where "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has it entered" their hearts to conceive what God has prepared for those whom God loves. (1 Cor. 2:9) This is the reason we gather in community, to retell the Story and to celebrate the Mystery of God's saving love in action today.
Comments from Alumni to this week's Reflection:
"Learning to be patient comes from trusting God's ominipotence ability, which a mere human only can partially comprehend. I ask God for guidance to know the difference in having patience with God's plan while continuing to strive in one's goals, in comparison to being stagnant/complacent. I look forword to reading the weekly relflections during Advent. Peace." ~ Maria Tapia-Montes
"Patient hope, love and understanding are so needed in our 21st century. Thank You." ~ Muriel Desrosiers '65
"Thank you for providing the on-line Advent reflection. It is a beautiful reminder to slow down and take the time to personally reflect and work towards strengthening our faith." ~ Regina '80