In his homily for the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Benedict makes two points which really struck my heart and which I have been using for meditation.
The first is where the Holy Father notes we have begun: “….a new liturgical year, a new journey of faith….”
So I posed to the Lord in prayer this: “What exactly is this ‘newness’, of what does it consist and how can I embrace it?”
After some time sitting with those questions I found myself ‘looking’ around this world which for decades now seems to be wandering, at times deliberately heading, into ever deeper regions of the culture of death, hatred, anti-Christian anger, economic chaos, ever greater impoverishment of family life, dignity of labour, replacing pure heart beauty for forms of art which degrade, confuse, and even exalt evil.
Then I realized that most people I know, myself included, on the threshold of any ‘new’ year, liturgical or that which is still a month away, the secular ‘new’ year, once the threshold is crossed we rarely experience much more than the chronological ‘new’, for we are still who we are!
So: where to encounter, how to discover the content of, and embrace, the new?
The answer is found in the second ‘new’ the Holy Father speaks of as the ‘new journey of faith’, which if we willingly begin it becomes a renewed entering, more consciously, deliberately, attentively, it is to be hoped and the grace asked for, into both preparation for Jesus’ return in glory at the end of earthly time and history, and preparation for a deeper encounter with Jesus at His birth, and subsequently throughout the liturgical year greater communion with Him through the unfolding journey of His earthly life with Him, especially within the depths of the Paschal Mystery.
This means what is referred to as praxis: the real, nitty-gritty living out of the Gospel of Love, Charity, Life, with our lives without compromise.
Therein, drawing once more from the words of the Holy Father, we will in this ‘new’ not only remember “…the event of Jesus Christ…” but shall find ourselves fearlessly opening ever wider the doors of our being to Jesus to “….ultimate fulfillment.”
The Holy Father then moves onto reflections about the Advent reality of “waiting” stressing that we are “…alive so long as…” we are in the reality of waiting, with hope alive in our hearts.
Within this waiting with hope in our hearts we will find ourselves asking: “What am I waiting for? For what, in this moment of my life, does my heart long?”
I found the examples of waiting the Holy Father used to be gentle, common to most human beings, tender almost.
Given the great cry of the Church for Herself, Her children, for the whole human family in this season of grace is: “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”, other waiting people have come to my heart, those who cry without hope and those so beaten down or terrified they simply cry:
Into the hearts and grief of parents who have lost a child: Come Lord Jesus.
Into the hearts and yearning of those abandoned in nursing homes without family visitors or anyone aware of their loneliness; those languishing in hospitals, palliative care hostels, refugee camps: Come Lord Jesus.
Into the hearts and anxiety of those in prison, on death row, in labour camps: Come Lord Jesus.
Into the hearts and longing for peace of all men, women, children living in countries at war, where terrorists attack, in nations where the state oppresses the people: Come Lord Jesus.
Into the hearts and longing for life, freedom, love of child soldiers, child labourers, children sold into slavery, prostitution, children homeless on the street, children who live in places where they are abused in any manner and hunger to be rescued and protected: Come Lord Jesus.
Into the hearts and hope for work of the unemployed, the under employed; into their yearning for better working conditions of those forced to work in dangerous mines, factories, forests, oceans: Come Lord Jesus.
Into the hope of returning home at shifts end: for first responders, military men and women and into the same yearning of their families: Come Lord Jesus.
Into the agony of falsely accused priests, priests abandoned by their bishops, priests yearning for reconciliation and restoration: Come Lord Jesus.
Into the yearning for true meaning in life, the hope there is a God, of people who do not believe or who have suffered loss of faith: Come Lord Jesus.
Into every human heart and life: Come Lord Jesus.
Yes O Jesus in the depths of our hearts and souls, in the profound yearning of our lives, we await You O Jesus, trusting You will stoop down to us, hearing our cry, come and help us and then every face will turn towards You and grow brighter. [cf. Psalms 33, 34, 40]