Saturday, December 22, 2012

God's Promises to Us--The Fourth Sunday of Advent. A Time to Hope

 The Gospel text for the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year gives us the story of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. Every line of this wonderful account could be the subject of a reflection, for example the meaning of the baby (John the Baptist) leaping in Elizabeth's womb for joy.  What struck me as significant for this year when we have just experienced the horrible tragedy in Sandy Hook, CT and see violence erupting all over the world was the last line of this text from Luke 1:45 "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

   These words, spoken by Elizabeth to Mary, apply to the recent acceptance by Mary of God's invitation to her to be the mother of the Savior in spite of Mary's not understanding how this can be.  What might we, today, learn from these words? How do they apply top us?

   Remember, God has made promises to us and with all that is going on today we, like Mary, wonder how all this can be. "What promises?", you may ask.  The promises yet to be fulfilled of peace, of people beating swords into plowshares.  The promise of justice proclaimed in Mary's Magnificat which concludes the visitation account--"He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty." (Luke 1:52-53). Indeed, how can these things be? Can we even imagine it?

   I believe that one of the real evils of our day is the widespread cynicism that besets too many of us.Cynicism is the lack of hope, the belief that things are a mess and that's how it is and how it will always be.  As Christians we must admit that indeed things are a mess, but hope tells us that even though we don't understand how this can be, that yes those promises of peace of the hungry being fed, etc are part of God's plan and will be fulfilled in God's time.  We are challenged as well do do our part to cooperate with God's grace and help those things to come about.  For me the outpouring of love and support to the people of Sandy Hook were a wonderful sign that evil will have its moment but it will not prevail.

    The Advent season is a reminder to us that because God's promise of a Messiah was fulfilled by Mary's fiat, her yest to the Lord, that the rest of His promises will be fulfilled as well--in His time, with our help.  We are called to look beyond the present moment without escaping from it and realize that as believers in Jesus Christ we are part of a bigger picture, a bigger plan. That is our cause, not for optimism, but for hope.  What is the difference between hope and optimism?  Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian, once said, "Optimism is believing that the glass is half full. Hope is believing that when it is bone dry and empty God will still lead us to something good." (My own recollection of words that I read years ago.)

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