Posts Tagged ‘Counting Blessings’

Finding Hope During Advent

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Second Sunday of Advent

Bar 5: 1-9; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3: 1-6

Dc. Larry Brockman


Hope!  It’s a virtue that is in short supply today.  Our economy and the economies of much the world are in a shambles.  We have record sustained unemployment; record debt; and housing foreclosures all around us.  We have a secular government that seems bent on interfering with our religious liberty- taking away school prayer, pushing gay marriage, and threatening our Church with oppressive forced insurance coverage of immoral items.  We have disastrous election results, like the defeat of propositions 6 and 8; gay marriage and legalized marijuana.  And lots of folks are depressed about all this.  Even the spirit of the Christmas Season can’t seem to break through and give us hope because there is so much to be done and it scares us to even think about doing it all.

But the message of today’s readings is hope because our salvation is at hand.   And we should be experiencing joyful expectation of that and not a sense of hopelessness and depression.  You see all of us who believe in Jesus and all of us who have Faith in his promise of salvation have the Heavenly Kingdom, symbolized by Jerusalem in today’s readings, to look forward to.  The reality of life, with all of its burdens and responsibilities and conflicts and chores is something we all must face.  But we must never lose sight of our goal, and never give up our Christian hope by trusting in God that He will work in our lives for our good.  Christian Hope and trust are what can keep us going through any of life’s burdens.

The first reading talks about how the Jewish people were returning from exile.  They had been through an extremely difficult and depressing time under the thumb of their conquerors.   But they were “rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”  Well, that applies to us as well.  We may be going through difficult times, but we have cause to rejoice because we are remembered by God.

No matter what we have done in the past, God always wants a relationship with us. ,And He is calling us back now to His heavenly Kingdom, just as he called back the scattered Jewish people.  And that should give us a profound sense of hope.

How can we capture that hope?  Well, that’s what Advent is about, a time for us to be in joyful expectation and renew our hope.  These readings tell us that the way is being prepared for the Lord to come into our hearts.  And we still have 2 weeks to ponder that before Christmas when the Church moves on and celebrates that Jesus has come.  The question is whether we will use that two weeks wisely to get ready in the right way for the coming of Jesus.  We may feel so down about the state of things, that we just can’t get motivated, or we may just bury ourselves with doing all those things that need to be done-  sending our cards, putting up the tree, shopping for gifts, celebrating at all the Christmas parties, baking of goodies, working overtime so that we reap the benefits of the season’s shoppers.  After all, that way we don’t have to think about what bothers us.  But if we do that, chances are we will still feel the same sense of sadness and depression after Christmas, maybe even worse.

The fact is that we simply must take some time to get away from it all and reflect on life.  It can be something simple- an hour a week in the Adoration Chapel; or an hour a couple of times a week in our easy chair when we are fresh in the morning, or in the evening when the house is finally quiet, maybe ion front of the Christmas tree.

And the first thing we need to reflect on is some gift that God has given us.  Surely, you can identify such a gift:  Your spouse, a child, a grandchild, that 1957 pink ford Edsel that you once had; your childhood Christmasses; your talent as a piano player or football player; the time you beat your arch rival in chess.  Whatever it is, that will put you in a frame of mind to consider how God has worked in your life, how He has answered your prayer in time of need.

Yes, there have been setbacks and problems; and there may be plenty of problems right now.  Some of them are consequences of what we’ve done; others are a mystery.  But the point is, that when we reflect like this, we can always sense the presence of God in our lives, giving us gifts.

Sometimes we can sense a thread, a kind of pattern, where the Lord has gradually nudged us through some tough times when we cared to listen.  We can then see that the mystery and pain of the past actually became a hidden blessing in the future.  For example, a missed opportunity that we pined over, only to have a better one come along.  That is God’s hand in our life, it is God’s blessing.  Cardinal Newman put it very well in one of his poems:  “Your power and goodness have blessed me, protected me, forgiven me, and guided me my whole life long, Lord, in spite of all my sins…”

If you can recognize such patterns in your reflection, then, there will be hope for the future.  Because the same power of the Lord is there now to guide us through the valleys and mountains of life.  That’s what Isaiah and the Gospel writer is telling us.  There is hope, and in that hope there is also joy, the joy of knowing that the Lord is coming, He is coming for you and me.

When our lives are done, and we have lived the good fight, our prayer and hope will surely not be disappointed.  The Lord will come and guide us to the heavenly Jerusalem because the mountains will be lowered, and the valleys filled in and the path to the Lord will be straight.  Jerusalem, the Heavenly Kingdom, with all the glory and rejoicing described today, will be ours.