In Advent as we prepare for Christmas, as we read of St John the Baptist preparing the way for the Messiah, we hear…what? Reflections on prayer? Reflections on how to prepare to remember Christ’s coming as a little child and to remember that He will come again, for we know not when the hour is at hand? Reflections on drawing closer to Our Lord in Advent, in preparation for Christmas, in preparation for His second coming, in preparation for a renewal of faith and love and hope?
Well, yes, we do hear of preparing ourselves for Our Lord, we do hear of spiritual preparation and of sharing His Love with others.
Pope John Paul II in an address in Advent 2002 said, “The liturgy of Advent…helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.”
We hear how we should prepare, in Advent, through prayer and through living a quiet, hidden life, centred on God.
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has presented St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, as a model of recollection. St Joseph’s silence in the Gospel, the Holy Father said, “does not demonstrate an empty interior, but rather the fullness of faith that he carries in his heart. Let’s allow ourselves to be ‘infected’ by the silence of St. Joseph!”
Silence “is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favourable to recollection and listening to the voice of God,” Pope Benedict XVI said. “In this time of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior recollection so as to receive and keep Jesus in our lives.”
The Holy Father has suggested that the faithful establish in these days “a kind of spiritual dialogue with St. Joseph so that he helps us live to the fullest this mystery of faith.”
Advent, then, is a time for recollection, for prayer, for penance, for rejoicing, for preparation, for being with Our Lord and sharing this joy with others…family, friends, strangers.
On the other hand, we also hear voices of contradiction, voices calling us not to more prayer but to social action. Alone. Voices even denigrating spiritual preparation during Advent.
From secular sources, you say?
Or from some within the Church?
We hear that, when St John the Baptist sent his followers to Jesus, to discover the identity of Jesus, to establish to others that Jesus was the Messiah , Jesus’ reply was about helping the blind see, the lepers be cleansed and so forth and that Jesus ” did not say a word about people praying more..or making God the centre of their lives…The age of the Messiah does not concern religion in the traditional sense of the word. One knows that the Messiah has come because a real change has taken place in society, a change that involves a liberation of those who have always been cut off from the main branch of society.”
And no, I didn’t read this at heresy dotcom ( to steal a quote from a friend!).
I read this in what should be a reliable source for the faithful in our parishes..
And it is wrong.
Christ did indeed promise liberation, and at first His disciples thought He was to provide societal or temporal liberation, the liberation of revolutionaries. Instead, Christ brought about spiritual liberation..a transforming of self, a call to follow Him and Our God, a call for interioral and then exterioral change.
Christ’s words echo the prophesies of Isaiah, words that gave the Israelites hope that their Messiah would come, words that showed without doubt that He was the much awaited Messiah. Prayer was not excluded. Prayer and adoration and transformation of self were givens.These words were signs of His identity, signs that should make those awaiting their Messiah, signs that should make us, fall on our knees and pray in adoration.
The real change is that by His coming, we are given hope and life. We experience true, unconditional love ( He emptied himself, taking the form of a man) . We are transformed interiorly and this spiritual transformation effects a change in society, as we share His love with others.
The Holy Father, in reflecting on Advent said “With the angel’s greeting to Mary —‘kaire’ in the Greek, which means ‘be joyful’—the New Testament begins.We could say that the first word of the New Testament is ‘be joyful,’ ‘be happy,’ in other words, ‘joy.’ This is the true meaning of Christmas: God is near us, so near that He became a child.”
The Holy Father then points out how “we realize that today’s world, where God is absent, is dominated by fear, by uncertainty.” Nonetheless, ” the words ‘be joyful because God is with you and with us,’ truly open a new time.”
“Joy is the true gift of Christmas… We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness. .…Let us pray that this presence of the liberating joy of God shines forth in our lives.”
And yet we hear contradiction again. In that should-be but now shown to be not-so-reliable source.
“Jesus is the Messiah because those who are blind, crippled, diseased, and poor have been liberated from the things which make them the victims of injustice.” Hmm, the Church states unequivocally that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity… and not because He was solely an agent of social justice.
Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man.He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic kingship both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man “who came down from heaven”, and in his redemptive mission as the suffering Servant: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Hence the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the cross. Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 440.
The CCC states that Christ was and is the long awaited Messiah, He is the anointed One.Yet we find contradiction again, in that local Catholic source..“We can turn the statement around to say that if the dregs of society do not experience liberation, then Jesus is not the Messiah.”
No, we can’t, I’m sorry. Not even metaphorically or for a literary, dramatic touch. Not when we are sharing Sunday Reflections for the faithful. If anything, these reflections need to be clear and unambiguous. The arena for theoretical and philosophical ruminations, for literary technique and analysis, is not a parish bulletin. It is the stuff of journals, of papers, of discussion forums.
Or even of blogs.
In Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, we should prepare.
Pray. Go to Mass. Go to Confession. Do penance. Do some extra spiritual reading. Celebrate and live the liturgical year.
Love and share this love with others.
The message is simple.
Living the life is not so simple, in an often secularised world. And we, the faithful are helped to live the hidden life of adoring and serving Our Lord, where we are, by the sacraments, by God’s Grace and by good teaching. And not by contradictions in what should be reliable Catholic sources.