I have to tell you that I was slightly taken back by the response I got to a posting over a week ago when I reflected on the meaning of the upcoming liturgical season of Advent. Unlike a different era, we’re not asked to “repent” during this season prior to Christmas as though this were a mini-Lent. But we are asked, as Christians, to do something that, in our time, might be far more difficult: “…to wait in HOPE for the coming of our savior Jesus Christ.”
Hope is surely a difficult mindset to have or a virtue to live out in an era where anger, hate, intolerance, abuse, and indifference to the voiceless are considered “normal.” Oh we have our selective outrages. It’s taken decades for women’s voices to be heard on matters of sexual misconduct, and yet I can’t help wondering if eventually such outrages will just be accepted as part of being a “grown up” in the modern world. We accept violence, don’t we? Whether it’s a black church in Charleston or a mosque in Cairo, a concert in Vegas or riding your bike in Manhattan – there is no place immune from the impact of human sinfulness and darkness. That’s just what we are and what we do, isn’t it?
At this time of the liturgical year, the sacred texts of our Christian tradition challenge us to live in the face of such darkness as lights in that darkness. Advent reminds us that there is no issue, no force, no philosophy, no attitude, no theological speculation that cannot be critically examined, challenged or eventually healed by the all-powerful love and mercy of our God. I live in hope because in my heart I know that our God is greater than all the darkness that humankind can muster. I live in hope because the one whose name means “God saves” has been born for us, and because of His light, we are enlightened and empowered to enlighten others. When I am at my moodiest and most given to despair for us as a species, I live in hope. I “hope” you are able to do so as well. – Fr. Joe