Today marks the beginning of the beautiful season of Advent and also a new liturgical year. To help us enter this season well, we are sharing a reflection on today's Scripture readings, taken from the book The Gift of Hope: Advent and Christmas Reflections in the Holy Cross Tradition. It was written by Fr. Bill Wack, C.S.C. Enjoy!
You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. – Romans 8:11-2
On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin … at the end. We begin a new church year by celebrating the Last Things, the Second Coming, the end times. There is no mention today of the baby in the manger, no angelic proclamation to Mary, no "Silent Night." No, today the church invites us to begin to calm our hearts and our lives so that we can together focus on one thing: hope.
What do we hope for? The coming of Christ. Later in Advent we will shift our attention to the time before Jesus' first coming – the Incarnation. At this moment, however, we think about how it will all end. This in itself sounds rather ominous. Who wants to think about death or the Final Judgment or Heaven or Hell? Well … we do! St. Paul today urges us to keep these realities close, especially during Advent. For the Christian, the end of this world does not frighten us or fill us with dread; instead, it fills us with unparalleled hope because we know how the story of this world, ultimately written by the God who sent his Son as one of us, will end. As we pray at every Mass, "we wait in joyful hope" for these things to happen. We may still be anxious as to how we will die, but we should never, ever, fear what will happen when we die.
And the reality is that our salvation is nearer now than when we first begun! In truth, we can make this proclamation every day of our lives. Each day the promises of Jesus are that much closer for every one of us: "I will come back to take you with me." "I will be with you always, even until the end of time." "I am going to prepare a place for you." "This day you will be with me in Paradise."
Yes, joyful hope! The more we focus on these blessed things to come, the better we will be able to live as God intends us to live and thus the better prepared we will be to receive these gifts at the end of time. The day is ever nearer.
From The Gift of Hope: Advent and Christmas Reflections in the Holy Cross Tradition, ed. by Andrew Gawrych, C.S.C. Copyright © 2009 by Priests of Holy Cross, Indiana Province. Used with permission of Ave Maria Press (www.avemariapress.com).