The refrain from Psalm 79 from the weekend readings was:
Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be changed.
And then the reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians (1:3-9)
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.
I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.
What are you being invited to during this new liturgical year?
I have experienced another week in which I am grateful to the people who are engaged in either the church or the community more widely, who are staying awake, in order to bring about change. I am also conscious that many do not name this as witnessing to Christ, and yet I continue to discover that the origins for their advocacy and activism come from their early connection to Christianity, many from our Catholic school system.
During the week, the key message in a letter from the Vatican City to the Sikhs for Guru Nanak Prakash Diwas (celebrated on 30 November), was to nurture a culture of hope, particularly in pandemic times. I believe this is what Advent is about. From the letter:
Hope, in the words of Pope Francis, is “the humble virtue, the virtue that courses beneath the water of life that keeps us from drowning in the many difficulties” (Morning Meditation in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 17 March, 2016) we face in life……The ‘virtue of hope’ easily unites humans, rebuilds confidence and reignites the passion to live. Persons displaying hope send out the message that ‘contagion of hope’ is possible and necessary for the present and future of humanity.
For us believers, hope springs from our religious conviction that God who created us and who sustains us will never abandon us and that “we are part of one another, that we are brothers and sisters of one another” (Pope Francis, Extraordinary Moment of Prayer in Time of Epidemic, 27 March, 2020; cfr. Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, 3 October, 2020, 32) and therefore, we are responsible for one another and for our ‘common home’. This conviction summons us to be ‘sowers of hope’ in our families, neighbourhoods and communities. It must make us believers restless till we reach out, with generous acts of kindness and compassion, to awaken the much needed hope in our brothers and sisters who are more affected than we are by the disastrous effects of the pandemic, in particular those who seem to have lost hope due to the loss of their loved ones, livelihoods, jobs and dreams for a secure future. Solidarity witnessed during these days, moreover, needs to be perseveringly and progressively strengthened so that it becomes an essential part of our lifestyle and the cornerstone of the ‘culture of hope’ that we aim to build.
Every year on the first Sunday of Advent, Bishop Bill commissions our many chaplains and pastoral care workers who reach out and provide hope to people in hospitals, aged care facilities, the university, prison, armed services, the port, our clergy and sporting bodies. He prayed the following blessing upon them:
Father we ask your blessing upon our chaplains and pastoral care workers, may you grant them the gifts of Faith, Hope and above all Love.
May they carry the light and compassion of Christ into the lives of the people they work with and minister to, and may, that light, shine brightly for all to see.
Give them the strength that comes from the Gospel and so be a source of strength for others.
This we ask in your Name through Christ Our Lord Amen.
During Advent, I invite you to take time in silence to consider the great gift of faith we have been given and how we are being called to pass on this gift of hope. It is more than going to Mass; it is about being true witnesses in the circumstances of our daily encounters, in our families, conversations, at the shops, in our work places, in our walking along the street…… we are making Jesus real. This is the gift of the incarnation, of God entering into our world as a babe.
I hope that you remember International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) on 3 December. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions. The theme for IDPwD 2020 is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.
This is indeed a theme of hope which matches closely with some of the recommendations around inclusivity, and which are emerging for our diocesan synod from our listening processes and from the listening campaign with Hunter Community Alliance.
And to finish this week’s message on hope, I reflect on the many words spoken at our niece’s wedding on Saturday. Through the words of their ceremony, and in the speeches that followed at the reception, Sarah and Aaron were showered with and spoke of messages of hope and love. It was very moving to see two people with so much love and hope commit themselves to a new life with each other.
So, as we approach Christmas, let us show the reason for our hope.