Once again, we find ourselves in the season of Advent, a special opportunity for prayer and charity, but also of joyful hope; a time to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord, in a joyous attitude of vigilance and welcome. It is an extraordinary occasion to review our life; a gift that God gives us to be lived intensely.
During this season, the Lord came, he comes and will come, as he invites us to recall the past, he urges us to live the present and prepare for the future.
Jesus has already come, and his coming transformed the history of man. His presence – God made man – announces to us that God’s love is fully realized in those who want to live it. We only have to change our hearts, be willing to love, to let ourselves be guided by the goodness of God, trying to build a world which is more just and peaceful, where fraternity and solidarity with the weak and the needy reign, outside as well as inside our own communities: with the elderly, the sick, especially those who need our attention, our time, enthusiasm, understanding and mercy…
One of the great figures of Advent is John the Baptist. The gospels will talk about this precursor during these days. He invites us to live Advent actively and intensely. Celebrating the coming of God on Christmas, is not just a matter of emotion and poetry. The grace of Advent and Christmas demands from us full readiness, openness to the life that God wants to communicate to us. It implies preparing, leveling, filling up and straightening our paths, sharing with others what we have, doing penance, that is, changing mentality.
I invite you to reflect on these two concepts that this season highlights: vigilance and conversion.
Being vigilant means being conscious of the presence of the Lord at all times, so that we can recognize him when he comes to meet us. He comes as a messenger of peace to show us the ways of God. Vigilance involves having a free heart, orienting it towards service, more specifically by being solicitous to others, letting ourselves be moved to respond to their needs without waiting for them to ask us for help.
What does the word “conversion” tell me? At what point in my life does the Lord ask me to change? What attitudes of Jesus I still lack or should I develop more? Am I steadfast in my efforts to “love better”, “pray better”, “serve better” and “be more faithful in my commitment”?
Conversion means honestly acknowledging in our hearts our weaknesses and sin; it leads us towards change in our life and to take a step forward every day; it is opening the path of the Lord who comes to free us from our selfishness, sin, apathy and corruption. It takes place when we experience in our hearts the nearness of the kingdom of God and its salvation for only the love of God can heal us and fill us with life.
Isaiah, another figure of Advent, tells us that “there is nothing to fear when we are with the Lord”. These words of the prophet, in a world like ours where different types of suffering and poverty exist, open us to hope since they remind us that God is our help. We are well aware that many places in the world suffer situations of injustice, war, natural disasters, hunger and misery, but we could improve all of this if we all learn to recognize God in our midst and behave like brothers and sisters, or at least humanly. Jesus of Nazareth comes into the world to help us find God in the midst of our history.
This time also highlights the figure of the Virgin Mary and acclaims the attitude of faith and humility with which Mary adhered, totally and promptly, to God’s saving plan. Mary is the model of joyful expectation of the Lord who comes.
With Mary, let us open our hearts and make room for the One who has already come and wants to come again to fill us with His joy. May we receive Him with the same interior disposition and the same love that Mary had in the first Advent of history.
I heartily wish you a happy and holy Advent. May we welcome the coming of the Lord with humility and joy.
My fraternal embrace
Sor Mª Asunción González, O.P.