A Shepherd's Message - Advent 2021

November 23, 2021

Advent arrives on Nov. 28 this year and (unlike most Advents) will last almost four complete weeks. It will give us time to think, to pray and to “work for” the Coming of Christ in this year that has been marked by anxiety, illness, quarantines, vaccines, healings and an occasional glimmer of hope.

We can see each other more readily now and enjoy an in-person presence more and more frequently. It is a time to welcome one another and all back to Mass again!

Advent means “coming” or “visitation” and Advent anticipates the mysteries of Christ’s Second Coming and of His Incarnation: the Conception, Birth and Epiphany of His first Coming. These realities are marked in our calendars in December and early January.

The time given to us in this season is: to open ourselves in quiet and silence to receive this visitation as well as to pray in song, psalms and hymns so as to keep this open spirit alive. Advent also has been a season for the care of the poor and outreach in justice and charity for the nameless and the voiceless. This is even more so this year.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once wrote: “...But may it not be the case that God is waiting for me in this stillness? May it not be the case that he is doing here what Jesus says in the parable of the vine: “Each branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.’ (John 15:2)?”

What we learn in the time of anxiety and purification, of waiting and pain, is that the Lord is accompanying us and has been there all along. We just did not notice Him. We had no “time” for Him. Now we do have time.

It is difficult to be still and alone — alone with the Lord. There are so many more important things we have to do. Sometimes it is illness or a quarantine that slows us down and awakens us to God’s call. In that time we also rediscover our very selves. The Lord has been waiting for us even as we wait for Him.

The entire course of Advent waiting is an act of Hope. Our life needs to be an act of Christian hope. Waiting can become unbearable if we remain completely uncertain about expecting or daring a new reality to come!

But we are not in that uncertainty for Christ has already come. He waits to gather all the fragments of our sufferings, missed opportunities, even our failures into a remarkable unity, the unity of His presence among us. The birth of God’s Son brought a new way of looking at and living in the world. The world is ultimately meaningful because Christ has filled it all with His presence among us, an earthly presence to be sure, but now an earthly heavenly presence.

Whatever Christ did has passed now into “His mysteries” (St. Leo the Great) such that He is present everywhere and within every human experience and event.

Advent means coming. Advent means waiting. We are waiting for God. God is already waiting for us. “May the Lord strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father AT THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS with all His holy ones.” (1 Thess 3:12)