WelCom December 2018:
We come to another December, another Advent, and another Christmas and another New Year.
Have all the plans we made at this time last year come to fruition? Probably not. Events will have got in the way, unexpected challenges, plans changed, things happened in our lives that were totally surprising and unasked for or wished for. Every year things need to be dealt with that we had no idea of a year ago, or sometimes even a few days ago. Yet another year has come and gone, and we will soon start another year.
Every year I think, ‘Next year is going to be better, I will be able to just get on with the things that need to be done.’ But it never happens like that. I say to myself, ‘The parishes will all be alive, people will be generously caring for each other and will be reaching out to the poor, disadvantaged and the struggling members of our society – not just the parish community – but anyone who is struggling. The churches will be full and there will be vibrant, inclusive prayerful liturgies where everyone is participating and wanting to be there. Our priests and lay pastoral leaders will have drawn in many other people, and especially the young, life in the parishes will be buzzing, vibrant and exciting.’
The end of the year comes and it all seems to be much the same; not much appears to have changed at all. It is the same in my own personal life. I think this year I will be more prayerful, I will listen more closely and carefully to people, I won’t be distracted with all the other things I am thinking I have to do; I won’t just be moving from one event to the next. But then another Christmas comes, another year begins, and I know I haven’t changed that much at all.
However, I go on in HOPE.
Hope is like the need for breath in order to live. Without hope there would be no life, we would just survive from one day to the next. We know we are always called to live in and to make the most of the present moment; that it is the moment gifted to us by God. But we are also conditioned by the future; we are conditioned more by the future than by our possession of the present. Because of this we all need encouragement and a kind of foretaste or a vision of what is to come. We need hope.
Advent is a good time to reflect on hope, because hope is identical with the virtue of waiting and it adds a quality or a sense of optimism; it is more than optimism, hope is about what God is doing for us and with us.
We cannot live without hope. Whether it is the hope that our personal lives will be a little better as each year goes by, or whether it is the hope the Church will become all that we want it to be, we cannot live without a sense of hope.
Pope Francis has for five years been calling the whole Church to renewal, to a new vision of what we are supposed to be as Church. In his letter to the People of God in August of this year the Holy Father wrote: ‘Every one of the baptised should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as God does. To see things as God does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so prayer will help.’
The Pope challenges all of us to continually renew the Church, and to make it a safe place for all. We cannot do that without the great virtue of hope.
Years ago, St Pope Paul VI wrote, ‘enthusiasm, spring of action and of risk cannot exist without a strong and serene hope’. As we pray through this Advent, and as we ‘within joy hope’ and as we prepare for another year, what will help us to be enthusiastic, to have spring of action, and to possess a strong and serene hope? It can only be prayer, honest and open dialogue with one another and constant contemplation of the face of Christ.
I pray we begin again this Christmas as we contemplate the face of the Christ Child and sing O Holy Night, knowing Christmas will once again fill us with hope and that ‘yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!’
O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name