The Greatest Solace

For Sunday, November 29, 2015, 1st Sunday of Advent

Anxious young woman watches from airplane seat.

Advent is traditionally the time of anticipation, of breathless wonder and waiting. It’s a season, right now, perfectly attuned to our times.

As I write this, Belgium is anxious and on alert for a possible terrorist attack. Presidential candidates are stoking fears. Airlines are on edge again and again.

I can’t help but think the Gospel we encounter this Sunday could speak to us here and now:

“Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Yet, almost as a soothing counterpoint, comes this heartfelt message of hope from St. Paul:

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love
for one another and for all,
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts.

The good people of Thessalonica to whom Paul was writing had their own troubles, and their own age of anxiety; they waited with joyful hope for Christ’s imminent return, while struggling to keep the young Christian faith alive in a time of persecution. Yet Paul’s advice to them is a wisdom that transcends the ages: “increase and abound in love.” In a time of uncertainty or even fear, the greatest solace, and greatest prescription, remains Christian love for one another.

So it could be for our time, too-and for the time of Advent. This season traditionally brings its added pressures and problems-Shopping! Baking! Family stress!-and the words from Paul can be a blessed balm. Don’t flinch from love; increase and abound in it. Seek opportunities to grow in holiness. Put simply, “Conduct yourselves to please God.” All else, really, is a distraction.

It’s all a distraction that can turn our hearts toward fear and away from the true essence and meaning of this season: making ourselves ready to welcome Christ at Christmas. In these coming weeks, we need to keep our eyes on the prize-the presence of God in our world in the astonishing act of Incarnation, a gesture of humility and hope that transformed the world.

Of all the things we may find ourselves waiting for this Advent, that is really the only one that matters.

Dcn. Greg Kandra

PRAYER

Lord our God,
we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.
Lord God,
let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Blessing of an Advent Wreath from Catholic Household Blessings.

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