“It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now…. Night is advanced, the day is at hand.” Roman 13:11-14.
It is a time of awakening, as Saint Paul tells us, “salvation is nearer now.” We’ve arrived at the beginnings of Advent, a time of waiting and anticipation of Lord.
Advent waiting reminds me of the lyrics of the Simon & Garfunkel song: “I’m sitting in the railway station, got a ticket for my destination… where every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.” Homeward bound, “I wish I was!”
Recently, here in Monterey, I got to see and hear Art Garfunkel, on stage; he’s the “one-man band” of the song, and a poet in his own right.
Very nostalgic for me; as I looked around the audience at the Golden State Theater on Alvarado, I asked myself, who are these “old people?” Then I realized, they are me; and yes, I’m that generation, who listened, and waited on this sound, of a song so long ago.
We wait and all of us, carry Christ on our journey: as we wait for our kids to return from school; wait for a dad to come home from the hospital; wait for the school year to come to an end; wait for that job interview; wait for the next paycheck to come in the mail; wait for the voicemail from the doctor’s office telling me “the blood test was fine,” for the thousands of concerns that are ours; and just up ahead, we wait on the platform of the train station, that will take us to the destination that is our true home. This is advent!
As we move into Saint Matthew’s gospel for this liturgical year, the first Sunday of Advents reminds us to stay alert to life and be prepared for the Son of Man.
Unlike Lent, a time of penance, the four weeks of Advent, or “advenio” is a time to arrive, to climb mountains, and to walk in the light. Be vigilant, on guard and seize this moment in time.
Pope Francis concluded the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy this past Sunday: and while he closed the holy doors of Saint Peter’s in Rome, and at cathedrals around the world, the pope reminded us that the “doors of mercy” must always remain open for the countless souls that come to the Lord, day by day.
Last Sunday, on the feast of Christ the King, he issued an Apostolic Letter in which he reviewed the past year, and recommended how mercy and forgiveness are marks of “pastoral conversion” for a church in his charge.
As we wait in the season of Advent, the pope tells us: “ Mercy renews and redeems because it is the meeting of two hearts: the heart of God who comes to meet the human heart.” Jesus is the human face of God, and one who dwells among us.
In reading his letter, you have the glimpse of a very practical pope.
For example, during the past year, he conducted his own “Mercy Fridays,” where he paid pastoral visits to the elderly in Rome, a children’s hospital where is photographed holding one of the infants, and most recently the pope visited with so-called “former priests,” their wives and children to extend his mercy and good will toward men who have left the formal ministry but whose hearts are very much with the work of Christ.
For Francis, the social character of mercy includes, what he calls the “creativity of mercy,” demanding that we not simply stand and do nothing.
For this reason, he inaugurated on November 13th, the “World Day for the Poor,” and with the help of various charities, brought to Saint Peter’s homeless women, men and children, to celebrate a Mass, and to better witness our day to day efforts on behalf of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
He addressed the priests and bishops who must carry out this work of “pastoral conversion,” with greater emphasis on scripture with the creation of a “Bible Sunday,” and more effective preaching. Here the pope gives some of his own ideas about the vital importance of preaching, based on listening to genuine concerns of people with “eye to eye” contact when giving a sermon.
Lastly, with a more fervent and renewed expression of the Sacrament of Confession, Francis is recommending a “24-hours with the Lord,” on the 4th Sunday of Lent.
To put this in perspective, and there are many things that we know about Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the one word to describe him, he is an “activist!” I should note that the Holy Father turns 80 years of age on December 17th.
The days of Advent waiting are here – when we open our lives to the Christ and Christmas, the very day on which we commemorate the Lord’s birth, with shepherds and kings and angels. That day marks his coming now with his mercy that invites each of us to his “invisible Kingdom of the heart.” Here is a homecoming worth the waiting!