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  • Fr. John Jennings

Out Sacred Stories ~ Advent: Be Ready, Be Aware, Be Awake, Be Open

Here we are on the First Sunday of Advent/Christmas. It seemed to come so quickly. Like the first snow storm of the winter we seem never ready for it. I only just got the snow tires on. Again and again, we hear of the preparations and plans for Christmas. Mark’s Gospel sets the tone for us with his clarion call to be prepared. Ready or not, Advent/Christmas is coming. The season leads us to encounters with a series of persons and experiences that are a significant part of our faith story, our scriptural heritage.

We meet the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah as he seeks to console and reassure God’s People, Israel in the midst of their worries, trials and threats. He offers them the image of their God as a loving parent. It is this God who gave and continues to sustain and shape their life. In hope, they are to see they 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 about to happen. God whose hand has shaped us is about to step into the life of humanity again. 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 us one who is our hope, who seems so fragile yet who offers such promise. Mary is the human instrument of this wonder of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Each of us and every 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).

How do we greet a God who is always with us, who provides us with the chance of unflagging hope and who allows us to be blessed by a love that is unconditional and can never be lost? How are we able to grasp the good news that God has come to live among us (Jn.1:14)?

It is in Jesus the Christ we discover our call to reflect to one another, to our community of faith and to the whole of humanity the loving presence of God among us all. For both John the Baptist and then Jesus proclaim the challenge for a change of heart - “be aware”, stay awake”. The fullness of God’s loving reign is coming. It is with this in mind that we enter our Advent/Christmas season.

This year, our whole Catholic Christian community is called to experience an “advent”, a transformation. It was set forth by Pope Francis in his opening address to the Synod on Synodality on October 9. He called our times “a season of grace”, a season of blessing. In pointing this out, Francis recognized three promising opportunities that lie before us as a church.

First, we have the opportunity to grow “structurally towards a synodal church” – a community in which the voices of all are heard and all contribute to its life with love.

Second, as a synodal church we are called to become a “listening church”. As a church that listens before all else, we are to listen to the Spirit as well as to one another. Through listening, we are called to respond to the hopes and the hurts, the challenges and dreams faced by our sisters and brothers of all places and cultures in our global church.

Finally, we are offered an opportunity to grow into a church with a bond of closeness to God and with one another. We follow a path marked by God’s own closeness, tender love and compassion.

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