Advent is one of the most beautiful seasons of the Church's year. On this first Sunday of Advent we are united with the whole Church throughout the world in praying and longing for the coming of the Lord. We are familiar with the cry of the Prophet Isaias:
O that you would tear the heavens open and come down - you are our Father - we the clay, you the potter; we are all the work of Your Hand
Indeed for over a week now we have seen the heavens open and torrents of rain descend on many parts of our country. Those of us who go to daily Mass have been listening to the readings describing the horrors of the end times. In addition we have been all shocked, saddened and bewildered by the revelations of scandals in our Irish Church. No doubt we carry all this pain, anxiety and bewilderment in our hearts as we begin this season of Advent - which is a season of Hope as the Entrance Antiphon of the Mass for the first Sunday expresses so beautifully:
To you, my God, I lift my soul, I trust in you; let me never come to shame. Do not let my enemies laugh at me. No one who waits for you is ever put to shame.
In the Gospel Jesus warns us about "signs in the sun and moon and stars.... nations in agony, bewildered...... men dying of fear....for the powers of heaven will be shaken" but He does not leave us without hope for He adds that it is then that the Son of Man will come. He advises us: "When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand."
Advent celebrates three comings of the Lord
1) His first coming at Bethlehem
2) His final coming at the Parousia - the end of time
3) His coming in grace to each individual
Like a silver thread running through these thee great themes of Advent and uniting them is a cry of the heart from the depths of human poverty to the infinite God who alone can bring us wholeness and completeness.
The history of the Jewish people was one of longing for the coming of the Messiah who would deliver them from all their enemies.
The cry of the Church throughout the ages is "Come Lord Jesus, Maranatha" as she struggles amidst human sin and misery and persecution.
Again the deepest cry of the human heart is one of longing for God as St Augustine says: "You have made us for Youself O God and our hearts are restless until they rest in You."
Throughout the pages of history God seems to delight to be in the midst of His people - a Mighty Saviour - He rejoices over them with gladness and renews them in His love. The God of power and love can produce anything from nothing so long as people are sincere enough to acknowledge their need of Him and lean upon Him in truth.
Mary is our model of one who depended totally on the power of the Lord and surrendered herself unconditionally to Him. Her fiat: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Your Word" was one of complete openness and trust in God. At every moment she met Him with whole-hearted surrender. This is what He asks of all of us on this first Sunday of Advent when we hear Jesus addressing us in the Gospel:
Watch yourselves or your hearts will be coarsened ....Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man."