Fr. Wilson Andrade is the pastor of St. Ann Parish and the Native Peoples’ Mission, both in Toronto.
There is a story of a typical last-minute Christmas shopper, a mother who was busily running from store to store when suddenly she realised that her three-year-old son was no longer holding her hand. In panic, she rushed back to the previous store only to find her son with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene.
Hearing his mother’s hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: “Look, mommy! It’s Jesus! Baby Jesus in the hay!”
Oblivious to her son’s joy and wonder at the manger scene, she impatiently moved him away saying, “We don’t have time for that!”
Advent is a season of hope, driven by the spirit of patient reflection until we celebrate the joy of Christmas. Yet we live in a world of “busy-ness.” We have “no time” for those things that are important in our life, the things that bring us true joy, that build up the meaningful relationships that we long for, relationships that help us to live in love and peace.
Let us make time during this Advent for Jesus to return, to find us, to fill us with peace in our lives and to give joy to the world around us.
Based on the Scriptural passages for this First Sunday of Advent, I would like to reflect on the three cardinal virtues: Hope; Faith; and Love.
Promise of God: Hope
The hopeful prophecy of Jeremiah that God “will fulfill the promise made” to the people of God, comes at a time when people lived under siege and were about to be taken into exile. In those moments of fear, crisis, loss, destruction and death, Jeremiah reminds them of God’s promise to save them, to “help them to live in safety” and “to spring a righteous branch” so that all can live forever in peace and joy.
We believe Jesus is that “righteous branch,” the hope of God, incarnated for our redemption. Like the people of Israel, we are called to live in hope and expectation with prayer and reflection so that the promise of God is fulfilled in our life, in our family, in our community and in the world.
Pope Francis said, “Do not let anyone rob your hope.” Hope opens new horizons, making us capable of dreaming what is not even imaginable. The Holy Father also said, “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”
Let us dream with God, with hope for the best for everyone, during this Advent season
Plan of God: Faith
God’s promise of salvation is not deceptive, desperate nor momentary. It is deeply rooted in God’s plan, which is incarnational, redemptive and eternal.
The prayer of the Psalmist and the apostolic blessings of St. Paul invite us to reflect on God’s plan for each one of us “to walk in humility with truth, justice and love” (Ps. 25) and “to live in a blessed life with love and holiness, pleasing God.” (1 Thes. 3).
Mother Mary and the saints are models who show us how to listen to the voice of God, to discern the plan of God and how to live a worthy Christian life. Pope St. John Paul II said, “In God’s plan, nothing happens by chance.” Do we believe that God has called us and chosen us to fulfill God’s plan of love?
Advent is a time for reflecting on God’s plan of love by listening like Mother Mary, St. Joseph, John the Baptist and many other holy men and women did. Advent is a spiritual opportunity to enter the discernment process in order to “lift our soul up to God,” who is faithful in love and grants us salvation in Jesus Christ.
Advent is a time for Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who is the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. Do we believe in Jesus, who became human like us, who showed God’s unconditional love for us to bring us joy and peace?
Pray to God: Love
In the Gospel, Jesus challenges us to read the signs of our times and to respond with hope, faith and love. Jesus instructs us that when those natural calamities happen, and crisis strike us down, we should “not be swayed away by the worries of this life” but “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
During these times, the advice of Jesus is clear: “Be alert at all times, praying to have the strength to stand firm before God.” This is the best advice we can take away for spiritual nourishment: Pray to God.
Advent is most of all a time for prayer. In the words of St. Theresa of Lisieux, “Prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look turned toward Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
Prayer is the spiritual breath of the Advent season. Let us spend time in prayer, nourishing our soul, nurturing our relationships, strengthening our friendship with Jesus. We are called to spend time in prayer, as St. Francis de Sales said: “Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy, then we need an hour.”
Without prayer, all our efforts would be futile, fretful and fruitless. I believe that if prayer does not change you, then change the prayer, because an authentic prayer helps us to transform our life, guiding us on the way of truth, lifting us up with spiritual joys, bringing us healing, consolation and peace.
Let us make an effort this Advent to receive all the blessings we need to celebrate Christmas, by opening our hearts to welcome Jesus with love and joy. The great poet Alexander Pope remarked: “What do I profit if Jesus born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, if he is not born in my heart?”
Be born in us, incarnate love, Lord Jesus, come, dispel our darkness of sin and death, and shine in us your peaceful light, forgive us with merciful love and bring us into everlasting life.
This homily is based on the readings for the First Sunday of Advent, Year C: Jeremiah 33.14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3.12-4.2; and Luke 21.25-28, 34-36, The Coming of the Son of Man.