November 25, 2005


Advent 2005: Starting afresh from Christ

The Church’s year of grace begins with Advent and the opportunity to start afresh from Christ. Christian faith is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. It is realistic about the state of humanity and the world. We do not expect Utopia, a perfect world here and now. But we also do not despair. The reign of God has begun, the new age that is Christ is upon us, and we Christians are profoundly hopeful about the future. We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are a people filled with hope because we believe that the Lord will return one day to lead us to the Father. And so we cry “Maranatha!” which means “Come, Lord Jesus.” Come, fill us with your life and your love. Let your grace fill our hearts with confidence and with hope in spite of the pain and sadness of our human history—in spite of the selfishness and sin of our fallen human condition.

Each year, the Church gives us the opportunity to begin again—and to prepare ourselves anew for the coming of our friend and brother, Jesus Christ. The four Sundays of Advent help us to start afresh from Christ.

This Advent season, the Old Testament readings from Isaiah and Second Samuel recall for us the profound belief in God’s nearness that is our inheritance from our Jewish ancestors in faith. The words of St. Peter and St. Paul to the original Christian communities rekindle in us the heartfelt longing for Christ’s return that so vividly characterized the early Church. And the Gospels challenge us, once again, to a personal encounter with Jesus, the Lord of history and the Savior of all humanity.

A personal encounter with Christ makes serious demands on each of us. We are called to conversion—to change the way we live. And we are challenged to see things differently—with the eyes of faith in Christ. We are free to accept the call to discipleship or to reject it (like the rich young man in the Gospel story), but if we seek to follow Jesus we must give up our old ways of life and start afresh in him.

Beginning again in Christ means entering into communion with him and with all our sisters and brothers in the one family of God. It means sharing in his evangelizing mission and proclaiming the Good News through our words and our example. Communion with Christ is the meaning and the ultimate goal of all human life. The Lord gives us the gift of himself in the Eucharist and in the sacraments of new life, healing, vocation and mercy that the Church administers on behalf of her Lord.

Experiencing Christ in a personal way compels us to reach out to our brothers and sisters—especially to those family members who are poor or suffering or alienated in any way. Once we have been touched by Christ, once we have encountered his loving kindness, it is impossible to remain isolated or alone. Self-giving is the hallmark of Christian life. We are called to live our faith in solidarity with the entire human family.

Finally, the call to start afresh from Christ challenges us to see ourselves as stewards of all the spiritual and materials gifts we have received from God. In truth, nothing that we have (or are) belongs exclusively to us. Everything—including the air we breathe, the water we drink, the bread we break, the clothes we wear and the roof over our heads—comes from God as pure gift. Even our thoughts and emotions come from God. As disciples of Jesus, we are challenged to develop our gifts and talents, to use our material possessions responsibly, and to share generously with others all the blessings we have received from a good and gracious God.

Conversion, communion, solidarity and stewardship—these are Advent themes. They are opportunities to start afresh from Christ.

May we wait in joyful hope for the Second Coming of our Lord this Advent season and throughout the new Church year. May we prepare ourselves (as individuals and as a Church) for the personal encounter with Jesus that we celebrate each year at Christmas and that we long for every day of lives.

— Daniel Conway

(Daniel Conway is a member of the editorial committee of the board of directors of Criterion Press Inc.) †


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