A Time of Hope in Christ our Lord
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, During this month of December, the month dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and the Infancy of Jesus, let us pray for the grace our hearts need to be prepared for the gifts of grace our Lord wills to give each of us!
This Sunday we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent. I share with you a reflection on A Time of Hope in Christ our Lord. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: “4th Sunday of Advent - A Time of Hope - Mary, teacher of hope. The origin of discouragement and dejection. Jesus Christ the Supreme Good: The spirit of Advent largely consists in living close to Our Lady during this time when she is carrying Jesus in her womb. We can think of the whole of our life as a somewhat longer advent, a time of waiting for that definitive moment when we will at last find ourselves with God forever. The Christian knows that he has to live this advent beside Our Lady every day of his life if he wants to be certain of attaining the only things in the whole of his existence that is really important - finding Christ in this life, and afterwards being with Him in eternity. There is no better way of preparing for Christmas, which is now so close, than by keeping Mary company, getting to know her and deepening our love and trust in her. Mary imparts a great joy to our souls, because when we turn to her she leads us to Christ. Mary teaches us to hope. ‘All generations will call me blessed’, she proclaimed. Humanly speaking, how could she hope for such a thing? Who was she, in the eyes of her contemporaries? The great heroines of the Old Testament - Judith, Esther, Deborah - won a measure of human renown even here on earth… What a contrast between Our Lady’s hope and our own impatience! We call so often upon God to reward us at once for any little good we may have done. For us, no sooner does the very first difficulty appear than we begin to complain. Often we find ourselves incapable of sustaining our efforts, of keeping our hope alive. (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 286) The ones who become discouraged are not those who undergo difficulties and feel pain. It is those, rather, who do not aspire to sanctity and Eternal Life, those who despair of ever reaching them, who buckle and give up. The attitude of the former is shaped by a lack of Faith, by comfort-seeking, lukewarmness and an excessive attachment to earthly goods, which they consider to be the only good things worth having. Discouragement, if it is not remedied, paralyses any effort to do good and overcome difficulties. Sometimes discouragement over one‟s own failure to advance in sanctity comes about through lack of will-power, through fear of the effort the ascetical struggle entails, and of having to give up disordered attachments of the senses. Not even apparent failures in our interior struggle, or in our concern to do apostolate should be cause for dismay. Whoever does things for love of God and for His Glory never fails. Convince yourself of this truth: your success - this time, in this matter - was to fail. Give thanks to our Lord… and try again! (idem., The Way, 404) You haven’t failed; you have gained experience. On you go! (ibid., 405) In a few days‟ time we shall see Jesus in the Crib. The sight will be a proof of God‟s Mercy and Love. We will be able to say: On this Christmas night everything inside me stops. I am face to face with Him; there is nothing but this Child in the whole of that huge white expanse. He does not say anything, but He is there… He is God loving me. (J. Leclerq, A Year with the Liturgy) And if God becomes man and loves me, how am I going to refuse to seek Him? How am I going to give up hope of finding Him, if He is searching for me? Let us rid ourselves of any suggestion of discouragement. Neither external difficulties nor our personal wretchedness can do anything to quell the Joy of the Christmas which is approaching. The object of our hope: Hope is recognized clearly throughout the Old Testament as one of the most essential characteristics of the true people of God. All eyes are fixed on the distant future when the Messiah will arrive one day. The books of the Old Testament describe the history of salvation in the course of which the coming of Christ into the world was slowly prepared. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 55) In Genesis we already hear about the victory of the Woman over the powers of evil, about a new world. (cf. Gen. 3:15) The prophet Hosea announces that Israel will return to its ancient love and will blossom in it. (Hos. 2:16-25) Isaiah, in the midst of the tribulations of the chosen people during the ministry of Ezechiel, announces the coming of the Messiah. (Is. 7:9-14) Micah will point to Bethlehem of Judah as the place of His birth. (cf. Mic. 5:2-5) There are only a few days left before we see Our Lord lying in the manger: The Prophets proclaimed that He would come, the Virgin Mother carried Him in her womb with boundless love. The Baptist prepared the way for His arrival and announced His presence. He has given to us now the joy of looking forward to the mystery of His birth, so that watching always in prayer we may fittingly celebrate the Christmas feast. (Second Preface of Advent) From the stable at Bethlehem to the moment of His Ascension into Heaven, Jesus Christ proclaims a message of hope. Jesus Himself is our only hope. (cf. 1 Tim. 1:1) He is the firm pledge that we will attain to the marvelous future we have been promised. We look towards the cave at Bethlehem in watchful hope, understanding that it is only in His company that we can boldly approach God the Father. (1 Tim. 3:12) Our Lord Himself points out to us that the principal objects of Christian Hope are not the good things of this life which moth and rust consume, and which thieves can break in and steal (Matt. 6:19), but the treasures of the „incorruptible heritage‟ and, above all, the supreme happiness of the eternal possession of God. We confidently hope that one day He will give us Eternal Blessedness, and here and now, pardon for our sins, and His grace. As a
consequence, Hope offers to everyone the means necessary to achieve what has been promised. Seen in this light, the good things of earth can also find a place within the scope of things to be legitimately hoped for, but only insofar as God orders them to our salvation.
We are going to struggle with all our strength, today and always, against those lesser forms of despair which we can experience as loss of heart and dejection, and an excessive concentration on and a nearly exclusive concern with material things and their possession.
Hope leads us to abandon ourselves in God and to do all that we can to undertake a deliberate ascetical struggle. This struggle will move us to begin again many times, to be constant in the apostolate and patient in adversity; to have a more supernatural outlook on life and its vicissitudes. In proportion as the world grows weary of its Christian Hope, the alternative is materialism, of a type with which we are already familiar - that and nothing else. The world’s experience of Christianity has been like a great love, the love of a lifetime… No new voice… will have any appeal for us, if it does not bring us back to the stable at Bethlehem - there to humble our pride, and enlarge our charity, and deepen our sense of reverence with the sight of a dazzling purity. (R. A. Knox, Sermon of Christmas) Trust in our Lord. Jesus never too late to give us the help and graces we need: Hearken to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from deliverance. I bring near my deliverance; it is not far off, and my salvation will not tarry. (cf. Is. 46:12-13) Our hope in God has to be all the greater, the less plentiful the means at our disposal or the more apparently insurmountable the difficulties. On a certain occasion when Jesus returned to Capharnaum, St. Luke tells us, They were all waiting for Him. (Luke 8:40-56) In the thick of that crowd one person is singled out by the Evangelist, who identifies him as a ruler of the synagogue; this man begs Jesus to cure his daughter. He fell at His feet. He has no hesitation in giving that public proof of his humility and of his Faith in Him. Immediately, at an indication from Our Lord, they all move off in the direction of Jairus‟ house. The girl, twelve years of age, is dying. She must be in her death throes by this time. Just at this very moment, when they have gone part of the way, inconspicuous in the middle of the jostling crowd, a woman who suffers from a hemorrhage that makes her unclean according to the Law, comes up behind Our Lord and touches the edge of His cloak. She too is a woman full of deep humility. Jairus has demonstrated his Hope and his humility by prostrating himself before Jesus in front of everyone. This woman wants to pass undetected. She is anxious not to take up any of the Master‟s time. She considers herself too unimportant to be noticed by Our Lord. It is enough if she can touch His cloak. Both miracles are to be fully accomplished. The woman, for whom the skill of so many doctors has been unavailing, will be cured forever. Jairus‟ daughter will go on to live a completely healthy life even though when the retinue arrives, after the delay to their journey, she has breathed her last. Whilst the encounter with the woman with the issue of blood is taking place, what has become of Jairus? It seems he has fallen into the background, and it is not too difficult to imagine him somewhat distraught, because his daughter had been already on the point of death when he left her to seek out the Master. Jesus, on the other hand, does not appear to be in any hurry. He does not even seem to attach much importance to whatever is happening in Jairus‟ house. When Jesus arrives the girl has already died. There is no longer any possibility of preventing her death. It seems that Jesus has arrived too late. And precisely now, when as far as human intervention is concerned nothing can be done, when all natural hope is gone and everything calls for collapse into grief, the moment has come to awaken supernatural Hope. Jesus never arrives too late. He only demands greater Faith. He waited until it was „too late‟ in this instance in order to teach us that supernatural Hope remains, like a solid foundation, amid the ruins of human hope, and all we need is unlimited trust in Him Who can do anything He wills at any moment. This passage reminds us of our own lives. When it seems sometimes that Jesus has not intervened to meet our need, He then gives us a much greater grace than we have been beseeching Him for. It reminds us of so many occasions in front of the Tabernacle when we have been aware in our heart of words very similar to these: Do not be afraid; only believe. To Hope in Jesus is to trust in Him and to let Him act, to let Him do what He will. The greater the trust, the fewer the elements we should need to rely on in human terms. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is the greatest guarantee of our achieving the means necessary for our salvation and the Eternal Happiness for which we have been destined. Mary is truly „the port in a storm for those who are shipwrecked.‟ She is the consolation of the world, ransom of captives, joy of the sick. (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, 2) During these days that precede Christmas, and always, let us ask her to teach us how to Hope in her Son Jesus Christ, the Messiah whose advent was foretold by the prophets. She shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of sure hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 68)” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, St. Columbkill, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace to be joyful in union with the Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel