A Shepherd's Message - Advent 2020

November 28, 2020

For almost all of us in the United States and in fact throughout the world the Year 2020 has been very difficult.  It has been by turns anxious, sorrowful and frustrating.  We are waiting for it to end, or at least, to go away!  Covid-19 has tended to define this year and has made the year very dark except for one piercing light advancing, the vaccines to modify or end it.

On the other hand the year 2020 has also brought us remarkable stories of heroism, cooperation, and great care for the sick as well as assistance to those unemployed, worried or destitute.  Individuals and communities have moved to action and commitment.  Such witness has certainly been true in our own Catholic faith with our Catholic Charities, San Jose Clinic, schools and parishes rising up to be heralds of hope and grace.  There has been remarkable and imaginative use of the media for building up communities in engagement and accompaniment with one another.  Light as well as darkness has shown through this year.  2020 has brought us Wisdom.

Advent has now come, the time of preparation for Christmas and for Christ’s Second Coming.  In classical antiquity the word was employed to announce the arrival of an important king or emperor or the visit of a “god” coming out of hiddenness.  Christian Advent beckons us to see and meet the arrival of the Word Made Flesh, the Word Who is always with us but draws especially close as we recall his Birthday from the Virgin Mary, his intimacy with those who are heavy laden and burdened, the sick, the lonely, the elderly and the orphan. 

In other words, GOD IS HERE (Emmanuel), has not withdrawn from us and our concerns, has not left us alone!  In the midst of the pandemic God wants to become more intimate with us, our hopes and fears, our waiting and our joys.

In normal times and daily activities, we have little occasion to be alone with ourselves, let alone find time with the Lord.  Society, the news, entertainment, jobs—all of these possess us.  Activities outside us overpower us as though we have become overgrown gardens.  We are propelled by our activities and preoccupations and lose our inner lives.  But the gift of Advent is that God comes near to draw us out of all this.

God is waiting for us.  In our many difficulties, anxieties, even sickness, we are asked, even obliged, to wait, to sit in silence.  The stillness may allow us to hear the Lord, to actually experience a little bit what Jesus said about pruning the Vine so that it bears more fruit!  We are all the richer for this pruning though we cannot calculate, count or compute how it is working within us.  This is the joy of a visit, an “advent”, by the Lord.  And such a moment is indeed beautiful --even this year!

I heard a more recent Christmas Carol a few years back, “The Shepherd’s Carol,” that I found very moving and perceptive about silence, the brightness of the Lord, the voice of Advent.  A Blessed Advent!

“We stood on the hills, Lady, Our day’s work done.  Watching the frosted meadows That winter had won.  The evening was calm, Lady, The air so still, Silence more lovely than music Folded the hill.  There was a star, Lady, Shone in the night, Larger than Venus it was and bright, so bright. Oh a voice from the sky, Lady, it seemed to us then Telling of God being born in the world of men.  And so we have come, Lady, Our day’s work done, Our love, our hopes, ourselves we give to your son.”

Visit our Resource Guide for more tips on how to celebrate Advent this year.