First Sunday of Advent - Year B

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John F. DelloRusso, O.S.A.
Our Mother of Consolation Friary
Lawrence, Massachusetts

Readings
Is 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7
Ps 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Cor 1: 3-9
Mk 13: 33-37

Today, my nephew graduates from the Police Academy. A career as a police officer has been part of his dream since he chose to major in Criminal Justice in college. He has worked hard over the past months at the academy - studies, practica, tests, physical training. For him, though he may not use this word, he believes this to be his vocation, his calling. We are all proud of him - not just because of this achievement, but also because he is a good person. Yet, given the reality of police work today I’m sure his parents are both proud and worried for his safety. This graduation marks a new beginning in his life and where it will lead him we really don’t know for sure.

Coincidently, his graduation ceremony falls on the First Sunday of Advent and for us Christians this day marks a new beginning. As many of us learned years ago, we begin a new liturgical year. However Advent is more than beginning a new liturgical cycle: Advent/Christmas - Ordinary Time - Lent/Easter - Ordinary Time. Advent offers us a new beginning in the way we live our lives, as individuals and church.

For so many people, and probably for all of us, these days are focused on preparing for Christmas and it is easy to get caught up in the activity and sometimes hectic pace of trying to get everything done in time.

Yes, we will celebrate Christmas in a few weeks but Christmas is about what God has done and continues to do for us and all people. We celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Savior of the World - God with us. We have been redeemed and believing that we now live each day looking forward to the second coming of Christ. And as the Gospel reminds us we know neither the day nor the hour.

This is our Advent. We continue our journey of faith believing in God’s goodness in our lives and in our world, recognizing that we don’t have everything in order, not according to our plans but God’s. The Kingdom of God is indeed present yet not in its fullness. We experience its presence in the goodness in our lives and in our world. Yet there is still so much hurt, injustice, violence affecting us and so many people. We have hopes and dreams for ourselves, our families and our world. Like the prophet Isaiah prayed for the people of his time we also pray:

“You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever….
Return for the sake of your servants….Rend the heavens and come down…”
O God, we need you, we need a savior.
No matter how hard we try - we can’t do it on our own.

And God has heard our prayer. Our Savior has come, Jesus, and he comes to us today. He has redeemed us and all people. We read in our Scriptures how he made a difference in the lives of so many people. Think of the people he healed, he forgave, fed, welcomed and those he continues to heal, forgive, feed and welcome today and how he does this work through us.

These weeks of Advent are our time of waiting, anticipation and our time for a new beginning. The Gospel again urges us to stay awake and be on watch. So how are we to live these days. The prophets will speak God’s word of hope to us in the midst of the challenges of our lives. John the Baptist will call us to “prepare the way,” to repent…., conversion - to look into our ways of living, especially those areas of our lives and our society which are harmful to ourselves and others and trusting in God’s mercy and with God’s help to live more in the manner of Christ. We will again hear Mary and Joseph’s faith-filled response to God’s call in their lives. They said “yes” to God in faith, not knowing where it would lead in their lives.

Advent is our time for a new beginning. For my nephew one new beginning is a new career. Where it will lead him we don’t know for sure. Each day he will have to get up and do his work and the way he does his work hopefully he will do God’s work.

What might be that new beginning in your life? In mine? What might be that new beginning in our families? Might it be a time for reconciliation in a relationship? Might it be a time to look at one’s career especially if you feel like you’re going through the motions - maybe to seek out something new or maybe to renew your commitment. Might it be a time to take better care of yourself - your health, relationships, to slow down the hectic pace of life and take some time for quiet?

And we need to look beyond our personal lives - to our world situation. Prayers for peace? Involvement in some work of charity or justice?

Advent. We begin a new year and what might be a new beginning for you. Where it might lead us we’re not entirely sure. We can choose to stay as we are but I believe God continues to call us to take a step, even just a small one, in a new direction. Whatever our choice we act with faith that God is with us. We obviously hope that our lives will be more peaceful, there will be greater unity among all people, that all people will have the blessings they need. As followers of Jesus we get up each day and do our work and hopefully in all that we do we do Gods’ work trusting in God and God’s faithfulness to us and all people for all times.