Advent with Nazareth Retreat Center: a series of short reflections on timely issues facing our world today in relation to the Gospel message for each Sunday of Advent. All reflections will come from members of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. It is the Sisters’ hope and prayer that these reflections will be a source of wisdom, insight, inspiration, and closeness to God during a time in our world’s history where observing this sacred time of year, as usual, is not possible.
Thank you for listening to these reflections. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth pray that you have a blessed, safe, and healthy Advent!
REFLECTION FOR SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2020
Throughout the year 2020, we have all been a people anxious and waiting in a lockdown-long Advent. And now, hundreds of thousands of people around the globe will be spending their Advent and Christmas without a loved one who has passed due to the pandemic. Millions more will be attempting a celebration without their usual large and festive family or community gathering due to safety concerns and travel restrictions. After a year of challenges, changes, suffering, isolation and social distancing, perhaps there has never been a more significant time to reflect on the message of the Incarnation in light of today’s scripture; to reflect on God’s incredible plan to draw as close as possible to us, by becoming one with us.
Hasn’t the Novel Corona year been one full of novel experiences, with every little thing cast in new perspective? It is from that perspective that I have meditated on the readings for this Second Sunday of Advent.
The Advent imagery from the prophet Isaiah– of ‘comfort’ and ‘wilderness’ holds new meaning for me these days with greater urgency. The prophet speaks tender words of comfort to a people in exile, in the wilderness, “comfort my people, comfort… speak tenderly. He shouts out a message of hope, of encouragement that good news is just around the corner, because God is with us in our wilderness.
These days many of us truly feel we are in that wilderness. And the central message of this wilderness seems to be that we are waiting for an imperfect and broken world to pass.
The messianic prophet does not seem to give an immediate timeframe or immediate comfort to the heartbreak and suffering of the people; what he offers is tender words of comfort and a solid message of HOPE. A message that our God is the God of the living; God is part of our everyday life, present in our daily struggles and joys.
In our Gospel reading, we are invited into action in the wilderness, in the desert, with the message from God’s special messenger, John the Baptist who cries out: “prepare the way of our God, make straight God’s paths”…. prepare the way…for the Spirit of God to come and dwell, to breathe in you, to comfort you, to speak through you today. He speaks with urgency, urging the people to turn around now, to get ready for the One who is coming, God with us, Emmanuel, the One who will always be with us.
The strong messages we hear are alerting us that the time is now to wake up, to pay attention; to listen intently to the message/voice echoing in our heart these days.
What message or voice from your place of wilderness do you hear today? What is the message or voice you are following these days of Advent? And where is that voice leading you?
- Some days you may need more than anything- a word of comfort in the midst of isolation and uncertainty;
- Or the breath of peaceful energy to surround and protect you, your family and community.
- Or it is the assurance that God is with you whatever you’re going through;
- Or to learn to respond to the world with wholeness and healing love. To see through God’s eyes. To feel through God’s heart.
The prophet Isaiah keeps chiming in: ‘Lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, fear not!” speak out, bring hope, healing, joy, and strength’.
Today, many people are heavy burdened – by fear, unemployment, financial insecurity, loneliness and grief. Everywhere in the world, especially in the developing countries the poor carry the heaviest burdens. Isolation and social distancing are impossible for the poor slum dwellers in places like Mumbai, India when a wall of cardboard or torn plastic separates a family of eight in one room from their neighbors. In every country, people feel weighed down.
Circumstances vary, but our encounter with the Corona ‘pause button’ that shut down our world has brought home to us that we are interconnected, interdependent, and not controllers of the earth; that we need to recognize our interconnectedness, rethink our priorities, allow our hearts, minds and actions to be transformed.
These days we may be feeling empty but scripture reminds us that there are no Christ- empty moments. There is nothing like a God-empty time. Our readings on this second Sunday of Advent ground us in hope at a time when it can be difficult to find hope in the world. As the virus seeps everywhere, nothing could make us more hopeful than remembering that our creator God has taken on our flesh in Jesus. When the families are locked up in their houses, and the elderly are left in a room alone, rarely visited, we need to remember, Jesus our comforter is with us.
Let us step back, pray for a glimpse of our God Incarnate in Jesus, and develop a new consciousness that all things here on earth are impermanent. Let us embody God’s patience, God’s love. Let our lives be shaped by our hope in the truth that God is present. Our God made flesh in Jesus, who mixes God’s own life with ours, understands what life is like for you and me.
As people of faith living in this time of the pandemic, we are called to radiate that assurance of God’s comfort and the divine energy — pray and listen to the Spirit. We have seen how social media has been used to bring communities together in prayer, in song, through spiritual, contemplative practices and virtual retreats. We have seen during this time, how communities and individuals have responded to the needs of the poor, the recently unemployed, the sick and our elders, our brothers and sisters. We have now begun to slow down and maybe even listen to the Spirit and respond to the needs of our communities.
Together, let us pray for the gift of hope that we can hear our comforter God speaking tenderly to us during this Advent. Let us lean in, listen for the message of incarnation afresh in our daily wilderness, allowing it to sink deeply into our lives. That we may be able to meet the challenges of each day holding on to the gifts of hope, love, courage and conviction.
Be born in us, God of hope and comfort. Amen.