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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories: Our Advent Heritage of Longing

A rainy day and a walk in the park. Streams and rivulets of water wind their way down the sides of the hill through culverts and under bridges. The downhill flow in swollen brooks offers a roaring rush of water and a view of nature in all its power. There is an inevitability in this scene. The downward flow cannot be stopped. The water flows downhill, seeking its end. At the base, it lies in quiet, resting pools.

Our lives are a lot like this rushing water. From the very beginning we seem to be in a search for something - happiness, contentment, fulfillment, peace. We seek rest from the searching, yet our natural state, like the water running downhill, is to seek and search.

Jewish and Christian scriptures offer us something called the “history of salvation”. In our bible the stories and other literature all are part of this “history of salvation”. They tell of God and God’s part in the human story, that story that is ever seeking contentment and peace.

Advent is particularly rich in the fulsome telling of the story of our relationship with God and the part God plays in our human journey. Through the course of this season we encounter a series of persons and experiences that play a significant role in our faith story. They are our faith heritage.

We meet the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah as he seeks to console and reassure God’s People in the midst of their worries, trials and threats. He offers us the image of our God as a loving parent, who gave and continues to sustain and shape our life. In hope, we see that we are the work of God’s hand.

We cross paths with John the Baptist as he announces that a wondrous coming of God among us is happening. God whose hand has shaped us is about to step into the life of humanity in a new way. God’s voice will be heard bringing hope of a world renewed, building a reign of God for all.

Finally, we encounter Mary. We discover the simple, loving and very human way in which God reaches out to touch our humanity, in the birth of a child. Like every other child this birth brings hope, one who seems so fragile yet who offers such promise. Mary is the human instrument of this wonder of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Every single human being has been loved into life, shaped by a creator God who continues to love us (Is.63:16-17; 64:1-8). St. Paul recognized that Jesus through the mother-love of Mary was born for us, that we might know the loving gaze that God has for us all (1 Cor.1:3-9). Both John the Baptist and then Jesus issue a clarion call to us: “Be awake, be aware”, “Prepare”. The fullness of God’s loving reign is coming, being built among us even now. This is our heritage. All that we see and hear in Advent/Christmas is the wonder of God’s love and the sacredness of the humanity that God has loved into life.

Daniel O’Leary in an article in the British Catholic periodical, The TABLET presented the words of a mother responding to her daughter’s question about her birth and baptism. The mother wrote to her daughter: I believed that you had come to me from the Father [God] who had always known you. To me you were well and truly His child, baptised in my blood, in the pain and effort of giving birth to you and in the wish and longing of my heart... This mother’s words speak for Mary. They also speak for us in this Advent/ Christmas season. It is what God through Mary has revealed to us in the longing of our hearts.

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