Hope, love, joy, peace are gifts of Advent season

December 27, 2016

The Church has begun a new year! We walk into this new liturgical year with hope and spirited hearts after having reflected and acted upon the Jubilee Year of Mercy. While the doors of mercy for pilgrimage and indulgences have closed, God’s mercy endures forever. 

In the Advent Season, we are reminded of the four themes of the wreath candles. These candles remind of the promise of salvation. They remind of the gifts to us through God’s unending mercy: hope, joy, love and peace.

Hope, the first Advent candle theme, reminds us that our hope is in the Lord who brings us salvation through His Son. Throughout salvation history, God has continued to reach out to his people and give them hope for a better life. The Gospel reading of the first week of Advent reminds us that God’s mercy has been with His people since the days of Noah, and one day our hope in the Lord will be realized when He comes to gather His people. Indeed, hope is felt as an opportunity for great things to happen. Hope places optimism and excitement within us; it gives us new life. 

We can bring new life to others when we greet one another with kindness and mercy. In the second reading of the second week of Advent we heard Paul telling us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). Mercy is giving more to a person than they may deserve, and this is what God does for us on a daily basis. Personally and humbly, I can say that when God has given me the grace to act with mercy, I find myself more joyful. Being merciful gives hope that Christ will continue his work in our lives, and that he will “create in us a clean heart” like the Psalmist pleads in Psalm 51.

Joy, the theme of the second candle in Advent, means more than being happy. It means that we can feel delight even though the circumstances of life may not bring us happiness. We can feel joy at the same time we feel grief. I remember when my father died, and I was so grief stricken and yet my heart delighted in all of the people who came to honor his life at his funeral Mass. I was joyful and felt much love for the many people that took time out of their life to remember him and comfort our family. This experience was an expression of Christ’s love and mercy working through His gift of community where He remains present continually making His love manifest to us. 

This brings us to our third theme: love.

It is Christ’s love in our hearts that makes us courageous and spirited. It is that love that made martyrs so courageous and convicted of their faith that no price was too high. They were so convicted of their faith in God’s salvation that they could endure any pain. This spirit is what gives us energy to treat each other with kindness; again, this is Christ’s love made visible to us through His people. I am sure we have all experienced a time we met a stranger forming an unfavorable opinion of that person by appearance alone. However, upon sharing a conversation or a part of our life with that person we may have found a great friendship. When we encounter one another with Christ’s love and mercy, we find peace. 

Peace is the theme of the fourth candle. Peace will replace the arduous work of worrying with how we can fix the woes of our life and let God relieve us of those weights. When we have love, hope and joy in our lives, we are filled with the peace of Christ. 

As we continue the journey as merciful people, how will you bring the light of hope, love, joy and peace in this new liturgical year of new beginnings? 

Norma Torok is an associate director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.