Happy New Year everyone! Today we begin the new Liturgical Year, and the theme of Advent is watchfulness.
In the first reading, Isaiah laments about the abandonment to sin on the part of so many Israelites. There is a strong desire for the coming of the Messiah to set things right, no matter what the consequences. In today’s world many feel the same way as we await the Second Coming, for it seems that only God can sort out the confusion and problems in the Church and society of today. The Lord will come again to put things right!
In the second reading St Paul reminds us that with the coming of Christ, the lament of Isaiah in the first reading has been heard. The Messiah has come in accordance with the Scriptures. Through the Redemptive sufferings of Jesus, there is now a new Covenant in His Blood, Heaven has been opened and as prophesied, the invitation to salvation has been extended to people of every race and nation. Through the blood of martyrs, the pagan Roman Empire was soon converted, and a new Catholic culture spread everywhere, putting out branches to every country on earth.
Advent – Spiritually Preparing for His Second Coming
During Advent we not only prepare for the joyous celebration of Christ’s birth but spiritually prepare for His Second Coming. It is a time to be spiritually awake and to open our hearts, so the Lord can build on spiritual gifts we have already received. The Advent Wreath has rich symbolism. It has been used by the Church for more than a thousand years. The four candles represent four weeks of Advent and traditionally also represent four thousand years according to Bible history, from the Fall of Adam and Eve, to the Coming of Christ. The light represents Christ Himself, who is the Light of the world. His Gospel traces out the way we are to live our lives and His love expressed especially the Eucharist. We light the candles gradually because the joy of salvation doesn’t come all at once. Our life on earth is a journey and growth in spiritual maturity. As Isaiah says: We the clay, You the potter, we are all the work of your hand. If we are humble, obedient and prayerful servants of the Lord, we will be malleable clay and God can make out of our lives a beautiful work of art. This is what He has done in the lives of the saints and martyrs of the Church.
It reminds me of the martyrs of Guadalajara city in Spain during the brutal Spanish Civil War between 1936-1939. In 1936 when the Communists soldiers took over the city of Guadalajara, eighteen Nuns in the Convent of St Joseph, scattered through the streets disguised in secular clothes. Three of the Nuns took refuge in the basement of the Hibernian Hotel. Two days later they left to look for more suitable shelter. A soldier eating lunch in his parked jeep saw the Nuns walking down the street and recognized them. He shouted to the other soldiers: Shoot them, they are Nuns. Sister Maria of the Angels died instantly with a bullet through her heart. Sister Maria Pilar, also hit, cried out: Long live Christ the King. The soldiers, furious at the pious exclamation, shot the unarmed Nun repeatedly and slashed her with a knife. She died, having lost most of her blood, saying: My God pardon them. They don’t know what they are doing. Sister Teresa was not harmed, and the soldiers led her to a nearby cemetery apparently intending to rape her. As they went, she spoke out fearlessly against their sin and they angrily insisted that she praise communism. To each of their commands she cried: Long live Christ the King. Told to walk a few steps ahead, she spread her arms in the form of a cross and was shot in the back. These Nuns outdid their captors in courage, mercy, and nobility because they had been malleable clay in the hands of the potter, who would now crown their lives, with the crown of martyrdom.
During this season of Advent let’s practice active humility, plug into God and put ourselves firmly in the hands of the Potter. This is a time of spiritual growth. It is the time for a good Confession, to nourish our souls with the Word of God in the Scriptures, to come to know our Faith better through the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to be assiduous in prayer, such as the Holy Rosary and to practice the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. If you have the Book of Heaven (Luisa Piccarreta), I encourage you strongly to read and reflect on these writings, which are so important for the days in which we are living. Let’s be close to Our Lady. All her thoughts are directed towards Jesus, who will be born in Bethlehem. At her side it will easier for us to avoid being distracted by other things which have little or no importance in the light of the coming of Christ.
Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever!