By Fr. Rudolph Juarez
For The Catholic Messenger
Depending on whether your candidate won or lost this November, you may be feeling as if the end of the world as we know it is at hand. If we measured everything by human standards, you might be right. But for those who trust in the providence of God, we know that our lives are in the hands of God and we can persevere.
Isaiah, in the first reading from the First Sunday of Advent, may well have felt that the world as he knew it was at an end. He writes to the people of Israel in the midst of great social and political upheaval. But unlike the political pundits, Isaiah does not despair. He finds within himself spiritual strength and encouragement and urges his people to do the same — find a greater truth in the Lord: the virtue of hope.
The Catechism teaches that the virtue of hope keeps us “from discouragement, sustains us during times of abandonment,” and “opens up our heart in expectation of eternal beatitude.” This openness preserves us from selfishness and leads us to the happiness that flows from charity. In other words, hope keeps us looking ahead for good things to come and keeps us from centering solely on ourselves or on the things of this world.
What a blessing if we live with an open heart, and indeed how good it is if we grow in charity towards others — and even if we give ourselves a break and not take ourselves or what is happening around us too seriously. If people of faith persevered in the most awful of centuries, why shouldn’t we? We must live in hope.
Advent is the season of hope par excellence — because it is a time when Christians look forward to the coming of Christ at Christmas — and indeed, we look for the Lord in the quiet of our hearts and souls. This constant presence of God is a good thing to remember as we go to and from work in the dark and the days become colder, and the earth more barren. For as people of faith, we know that darkness and death are never the final answer. Light and life are never far away — hidden under the fields or reflected in the blue gray mist of December or in the gleam of the super moon of the midnight sky.
These things make one wistful and cause one to turn in a bit, looking for that inner sparkle and inner strength that renews. It is, in truth, a part of the spirit of Advent which is penitential and reflective by nature. Yet we cannot be lulled into any kind of drowsiness spiritual or otherwise. For St. Paul urges Christians to “awake from their sleep” and to watch for the tell-tale signs of grace and for that “hope that does not disappoint” — even if we have to create it ourselves in a word of encouragement, a sign of support and by a love that sustains us in the give and take of creating a better world.
Advent is a beautiful and hope-filled time of year, too beautiful and hopeful to give in to the hectic running here and there or the dreariness of winter (if it ever gets here!). Instead we must heed the words of Isaiah: “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.” There is always more for us to learn, always an opportunity to grow, and always a way for us to better cope with the changing of the times.
In this season of restlessness and anticipation, the words of the French hymn captures well the inner stirrings of the faithful heart:
“O come, divine Messiah; the world in silence waits the day,
when hope shall sing its triumph and sadness flee away.”
(Fr. Rudolph Juarez is pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.)