by Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J.
“FAITHFUL COVENANT God, we turn our gaze toward You … look over us with kindness and nourish us … help us risk beyond safe solutions…”
Here we are at Advent’s door and we hear proclaimed Isaiah’s vision in the midst of a war-torn world and an unjust society where oppression and idolatry reign. Like a voice shouting in the dark, he speaks a vision- and hope-filled dream. He tells the house of Jacob, and all of us (every nation), that ours is a pilgrimage to the gates of heaven. There the Lord, Yahweh, will again show us the way, settle strife and establish peace.
We hear a clear call, an imminent command to turn to God and away from injustices which allow us to remain in darkness and avoid those most needed steps into the light.
In the past years at gatherings with young people, religious sisters and all the faithful, Pope Francis, in audible tone and several languages, called out: “Wake up! Wake up! Respond to the Lord’s grace in you … no one who is asleep can sing, dance or rejoice… Go, go forward!”
The Day Is at Hand
Today, not only Isaiah, but also the psalmist, Paul and Matthew call to us: “it is time for you to awake from sleep … the day is at hand … let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”
Can’t you almost see Pope Francis smiling at our Church families today and reminding us that we can’t do this in our sleep?
Isaiah’s vision-dream directs us to hope and peace as we anticipate the coming of the Messiah and future savior. God is at the center of our history and we are to commit our ways to God’s ways. We are called to a response and transformation into the likeness of the Christ Who came once in time and in our very nature, Who comes always in every moment of our lives and Who will come again in glory bringing us to oneness with God and all creation.
We’re presented with a view of a world not so far from our present world: weapons of destruction, war, oppression, discrimination, segregation, works of darkness, living for self and for the day, eating, drinking, living without notice or attention to what’s happening. Today we see divisions and major inequalities all over the world, in our country and neighborhoods and among our neighbors and families. Denial of God’s presence in our lives has grown and can lead to a spiritual and social indifference toward a “common good.”
A Brighter Direction
Our faith, our hearts, today’s scriptures and each Advent point our hope in a brighter direction. God is at the center of our history, God knows our hearts and we are encouraged today to know the heart of God.
We also read and hear a hope-filled vision: swords and spears become tools for farming and feeding and an end of violence, war and terror sees nations on pilgrimage to God together, and cities come together in unity. Praise and thanksgiving are offered to God, walls of peace (not exclusion), prosperity and good fortune in workplaces and homes, and walking God’s ways, walking in the light, are envisioned.
We ask ourselves: “In what direction am I, you, we going?”
Sleepers do not understand the Advent promise of Emmanuel God-with-us. Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel is our light, energy and guiding strength on the path. Paul exhorts us to start right now: “the day is at hand.”
We start living in the light by clothing ourselves with Christ Who is the Light. The light with which we are clothed is the same light we received at our baptism and which has never left us. We may have chosen darkness over time, but the light has never been extinguished.
Thank You, Jesus.
A Different Advent
This is a different Advent – it’s different because each of us is a different person than we were last Advent, or even yesterday. Our world and country are different today.
May we put on Christ’s light – one which secures peace, establishes justice and creates oneness and safety among all people. We need not fear for Jesus Christ – Who came, Who comes now, Who will come again, in Whom we have been bathed and clothed – is with us.
May we stay awake, eyes open, ears alert, hearts ready to carry the message in actions. We’re called to embody God’s universal and unconditional mercy and love wherever we go. May we, today and each day this season, do one thing (or more) that helps create God’s vision and brings us closer to Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Let us “Go, go, go forward!” Let us pray for each other and for peace in our world. God bless you.
“… Father, Mother of the universe, Your Son is coming … bring our hidden hopes to light … lead us through the dimly lit shadows of winter’s dusk and have mercy on us…” (Inspired by Passionist Father Carroll Stuhlmueller’s “Biblical Meditations for Advent and Christmas Season”)
Readings for the First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 2: 1-5
Psalm 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Romans 13: 11-14
Matthew 24: 37-44
Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.