First Sunday of Advent
December 2, 2012
Reflection for the First Week of Advent
Randy Sachs, S.J.
The season of Advent is upon us again. It sneaks up, doesn’t it? At least that’s the way I feel. The fall semester here at the School of Theology and Ministry where I teach is just about over (how did that happen?!) and that means a lot of student papers to read. Which makes me wonder when I will actually be able to get to those Christmas cards I picked up at the Museum of Fine Arts last week. I always tell myself that as long as I mail them before the twelve days of Christmas are up, I’m fine. Oh, almost forgot about Christmas presents for my family. Please, Lord, please help me come up with something better for my nieces and nephews than iTunes card gifts! All in all, Advent may well be the liturgical season that is hardest to get into. I say that because everything around us is trying to make these precious weeks into a kind of non-stop, get-ready-for-Christmas marathon.
Advent is, of course, a time to prepare for the great celebration of Jesus’ birth 2,000 years ago, God’s coming to us as a human being; but it is also an opportunity to take time to reflect on how God continues to come to us here and now, in our world and in our lives, in the risen Lord Jesus and in his Spirit. At a time of the year in which the days seem overflowing with things that need to get done, I like to walk outside in the late evening, where I find a welcome blessing of stillness, an invitation to leave the noise behind for a while and find the inner quiet again. There is something so calming and clarifying about the deep blue night sky of winter. What is it about the stars that seem to summon once again, from some forgotten place, my deeper hopes and desires, that I might speak them to the Lord? In a surprising way, the Magi are our Advent companions. They, too, long before they found the One they were looking for, felt themselves led by a star, somehow pulled out of a life that may have lost the heart and soul it once had, somehow filled with a new hope that something more, something abundantly more, was indeed possible and real. How did they – how shall we – find our hopes and hearts stretched for the new life that the Lord is bringing? Maybe that’s why we need this Advent season so much.
Advent is the time in which the risen Lord Jesus comes to find where hope and desire have dimmed or even died in us – to bring them back to life. In a world in which so many voices warn us, “Don’t get your hopes up too high!” Christ says, “Behold, I make all things new! Don’t be afraid to have great hopes!”
The scripture readings of the liturgy during Advent are full of rich images of the new life that the Lord’s coming makes possible. http://www.nccbuscc.org/ They have the power to get us in touch again with our deepest, truest desires and to give us the courage to have high hopes where for one reason or another we have given up. In the first week of Advent, the real treasures are in the weekday readings from the prophet Isaiah. Speaking through them, the Lord wishes to fill us all with a blessed hope for the healing and reconciliation, the peace and compassion that his presence brings. How might his words be meant just for you?
Some of the images speak to us:
of the day when the nations shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; when one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war (Monday, Is. 2:1-5).
of the Peaceable Kingdom, where there is no harm or hurt on God’s holy mountain, where the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them (Tuesday, Is. 11:1-10)
of the rich feast the Lord will provide for all peoples, and destroy forever the web of death covering all nations, and wipe away the tears from all faces (Wednesday, Is. 25:6-10)
Take some quiet time out this week, as often as you can. Pick a passage from the daily liturgy, ask the Lord to be with you and read it slowly once or twice. Then sit with it for 15-20 minutes – perhaps a walk in the quiet of the dark blue night sky appeals – and notice what you find yourself desiring or hoping. Maybe it will be just the ability to believe and hope that anything remotely like you read is possible for you and for our world. Maybe you will find yourself thinking of where forgiveness still needs to overcome harm and hurt, or of someone who has comforted you in great loss. Maybe you’ll think of persons who have helped keep hope and desire alive in you. Maybe it’s a relationship you’ve given up hope on. Maybe you’ll find yourself wanting to do something to make God’s dream of peace and plenty more of a reality for those who are most in need. Maybe it will be something completely different. Whatever it is, tell the Lord what you desire; tell the Lord what you hope for, confident that the Lord comes to meet you in your deepest desires and hopes.
Comments from Alumni and Friends:
"Thank you for an inspiring reflection." ~ Pasquale E. Micciche '58
"'I like to walk outside in the late evening, where I find a welcome blessing of stillness, an invitation to leave the noise behind for a while and find the inner quiet again. There is something so calming and clarifying about the deep blue night sky of winter. ' Really loved reading this - I too enjoy going for late night walks in the winter. It's the one time of day when the lengthy to-do list fades into the background, and it is possible to contemplate without interruption, the mysteries and possibilities of this life and the next." ~ Anonymous
"I USED TO walk at night. Thanks for reminding me of the benefits. Tonight will be a time to once again appreciate the JOY." ~ Elizabeth Carroll
"Alumni Services ought to post Fr Sachs' weekly Advent Reflection as a BC "Alumni Benefit"! Thank you BC and thank you Father Sachs." ~ Jim DiResta '74
"Christmas always arrives before we are prepared to receive all its blessings. This program fills that need. I have forwarded your URL to my children and grandchildren." ~ Phil Baxter '49
"Thank you for inviting me to share in the weekly message and for all the values that Boston College instilled in me. I also read the Magnificat each day... It is a tough world we live in. I am thankful for hope, patience and God's guidence. Each day is precious and to be in the moment and send out love takes concerted effort." ~ Patricia Dempsey
"Wonderful reflection. Perhaps you can talk about fairness? I've been struggling with how to talk about this facet of life in the context of my Catholic faith with my 3rd grade CCD students." ~ John Taylor '89
"I enjoyed this reflection and it makes me wonder, what is in store for me. As a follower of God and one of his healers (RN), I wonder if He really hears me when I ask for His help, to help others." ~ Tasha '92
"Thanks for slowing me down - great reflection." ~ Will Baay '11
"Your Advent Reflection this week invites us back to the true meaning of our Lord's coming and the reason we feel so fulfilled. The Christ Child replenishes our soul with such inexplicable joy and inner peace that we refuse to let go of the moment. Thank you for your insight and I look forward to next week." ~ Joe Marzouca '81
"Thank you for sharing your hope-filled thoughts. They have already helped me to slow down and be still and continue on the path today. I'm sure the reflection will provide a good "Compamion on the Journey" for this week." ~ Catherine Drury '68
"I do like the stillness and freshness of a walk in a cold starry night. I use it to reflect. I ask myself: 'have I helped someone today in any way?' before I sleep. I ask God to watch over me and thank Him for giving me another day to turn the page." ~ Edward Scribner '67
"Our traditions of Christmas, both religious/spiritual and purely cultural, are clearly under assault in our secular society today. So, it is important for us to protect and preserve the presence of the Christ Child in our national life. If we, as Catholic Christians do not do this, that presence will fade away in time to come." ~ Raymond J. Mitchell '63, MEd '71
"Thank you, Fr. Sachs. You message resonates to my core and is optimistic but not arcane; truthful but not pedantic; full of love and understanding and compassion and GOD." ~ Joan Jacoby '73, '77, MBA'82
"I love this time of Advent; the sense of waiting and believing that so many things are possible. I am grateful that the Church gives us this gift." ~ Monica Forte '81
"Thank you for helping me enter into this Advent season in a reflective way. I look forward to the rest of this journey with all of you!" ~ Elizabeth Stowe Fennell '05
"This was a beautiful reflection, and has helped me tremendously to begin the new Advent season. I pray for all priests and religious that help our Church to grow and provide comfort to those of us who sometimes get lost in the secular world." ~ Diane Bloumbas '78
"What a great reminder that Advent calls me to respond in some way to God's initiative of the incarnation. I, too, will take my walk into the night to receive and give hope." ~ Randall Furushima MEd'78
"Thanks for the wonderful reflection. As a nurse, I usually get out of work at 11:30 at night and love the serenity of the night sky and the coolness of the winter air. I will use this time to reflect and talk with our Lord!" ~ Joan Drain Latauskas '86
"As I and many of my friends and family struggle with the hierarchal Church, it is nice to be reminded of the Jesuit perspective that invites us to and hopes that we will have a deeper and closer relationship with the Trinity. Pax." ~ Ignatius MacLellan '81
"Your Advent Reflectons are a gift to me. May each of us live simply and gently in this great mystery." ~ Phyllis O'Donnell, CSM, '76
"I agree about the hustle and bustle of the season. For me, I am busy at work this time of year. I feel sometimes we run around buying things for others who don't want/need them. I relish quiet time reflecting on the gifts God has given me. The gifts of health and great family and friends. I feel awful for those who don't feel they have no one who loves or cares for them. I pray for them." ~ Peter Wuertz '82
"'How shall we find our hopes and hearts stretched for the new life the Lord is bringing us?"'The words bring sharp meaning for me as I face the new life without my wife who died in August. Oddly enough, I find I have more time now to ruminate about spiritual matters after years of caring for her declining mental and physical needs. I continue with my routinely spoken daily prayers and weekly Mass attendance - except for the Hail Mary when "now and at the hour of my death" grabs my attention and revives the scene in the ICU as she drew her last breath in the company of me and nine family members. A beautiful death and one I hope to emulate at the proper time. But spiritually, I find myself at the doorway of complete belief in the hereafter with all the comforts that belief brings to us mortals as I feel underfoot that threshold which, thin as it is, prevents me from entering into that chamber where all the joys of heavenly reunion and the beatific vision awaits me. I pray during this Advent that God will touch my elbow and gently assist me over that one last hurdle. Father Sach's words have helped me to work toward that goal! ~ James Nolan '55, '61
"Merry Christmas. How nice to say the words associated with the season. In this time of year-end deadlines and the constant retail creep, I am glad to read about 'the reason for the season.'" ~ Chris Nairne '86
"Thank you Fr. Sachs for your inspiring thoughts. Your writing renews our Catholic faith during this busy time and reminds us of our special BC culture. I have printed your work and placed it under our tree as a special present for my family." ~ Josephine Limjuco-Gabriel '85
"This has been the first time I have had a chance to stop and think about the real meaning of Christmas. I look forward to using these reflections as part of my preparation for the Christmas season." ~ Lillian Miller MEd'11
"Thank you for the beautiful reminder to slow down and enjoy this special season! What guidance might you share for those of us who are raising children in the Catholic faith? How do we encourage young ones to join us in stopping to reflect upon their blessings?" ~ Lauren, MA'08
"A beautiful quote by Romano Guardini is particularly meaningful to me during this time of the year. It reads, "One day he will come. Once in the stillness...you will know ...not from a book or the word of someone else, but through him." ~ Janice Satlak-Mott '88
"I pray that the hustle and bustle of the season and life's challenges and sorrows we at times must endure will not prevent us during this advent season from Finding God in All Things and being open to what His plan is for us." ~ Dineen Riviezzo '89
"The visual images contained in your 1st Advent reflection led me to a wonderful spiritual place. Thank you." ~ Deborah '78
"Hope is for me one of those big words like faith, trust, love... that stand for experiences which can make or break a life. As long as you don't give up, hope doesn't let go, but often old age experiences seem to mean, "Don't dare to hope!" So it helps to see an unimaginable hope turned true: I've lived in Germany for the last thirty-three years and was in Berlin on November 28, 1989 when the Wall went down. I then moved East, near the Polish boarder and witnessed the 'Wiedervereinigungâ', German reunification, without the threatened bloodbath and death. Members of my parish here in Greifswald can still hardly believe it: the guns that were ready for the firing didn't. Hope, just days before Advent, came true, and though the nights weren't 'silentâ', weapons were still, and dared hope turned into tremendous joy: Deo gratias!" ~ Alfred Joseph Anderson '66
"We are so busy looking ahead and planning our next "thing" that we often forget to thank the Lord for the gifts we have been given. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect back on the times that I have needed God's love and guidance and he has been by my side. Thank you." ~ Cheryl '93
"I liked your reminder, Fr. Sachs, about how Advent can be a time to reflect on how God continues to come to us "here and now." I also was inspired by your thought that Advent can help us find our "hopes and hearts stretched for the new life that the Lord is bringing." Thank you. A word to James Nolan, too...thank you for sharing your moving story. I'm sure that God will "touch your elbow" and guide you through this time. Peace and hope to you and your family this Advent." ~ Leo Racine '81
"I felt affirmed as I have always thought of Advent as a Season of Rebellion because it reminds us that we should be tired of waiting for the peace and love that Jesus came to preach and for the hope that you spoke of." ~ Carlotta Gilarde, csj