Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent: The Hoping for Hope

With the Advent Season begins another year in the liturgical life of Catholics. Adviento is a latin word which means “to wait for what is coming, expectation of something that is waited for, something expected which will come and shape the present.”

What would human life be without hope? We would sink in a sea of uncertainty, of suffering, of pain and of evil without something to encourage us to continue trusting, trying, working, projecting, loving, believing and hoping . . .

We, Christians, are essentially and fundamentally men and women of hope. In other words, men and women who live in a permanent advent: waiting that the birth of God comes at Christmas; waiting for the daily encounter with God through his creation, through our brothers and sisters (especially the poorest in society), through liturgy, through the sacraments; through the many signs and circumstances by which God comes near to us and meets us each day. Christians live waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled; that God’s Kingdom overcomes the kingdoms of the world; that God’s mercy overcomes the lack of love; and that God’s power triumphs over the mean power of man.

But the fulfillment of this hope –as the Advent Psalm says-- for “justice to flourish and peace to be abundant” it requires that we Christians construct, with our acts and our words, with our announcements and denunciations, and with our behaviors, attitudes, and works, a time and space in which Christian hope is possible; in other words a time and space in which God’s Kingdom becomes evident through us.

In this way, the hope we are waiting for takes us out of a passive attitude of resignation, and brings us to construct the hoping attitude we are wishing for --the new heaven and the new earth we wish for! Even more so, Christians know that the daily wish for happiness becomes true only in the real hope: which is Christ and his life in us. Christian hope is not a hope that can be reduced to ephemeral and temporary satisfactions; but one that pushes all our present lives towards a full and total future in God.

Advent, this liturgical time, just before the anticipation of Christmas is –more than just a liturgical time-- a life attitude and a personal and communitarian commitment of the believers and those from the Church who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Also the belief in a world in which the divine starts, shows, and stays in the most humane and every day aspects of our present history.

Liturgy, in this time of Advent, speaks to us of a hope which does not die in the day to day; a hope that lightens up each moment of our lives; a hope that is infinite and without conditions; a hope which has no limits and is eternal; a hope that opens up for us the beyond of our limited intra-history; and a hope which overcomes all forms of evil, pain and death.

Circumstances today, more than ever, urge us to live in the spirit of Advent. All around us there are manifestations of crisis: crisis of the human spirit; crisis of goals which humanity dreamed of; crisis of trust and confidence in men and institutions; crisis of trust in governments, regimes, political and economic models; lack of trust between peoples and nations; lack of trust and belief in spiritual leaders. There is disillusion and mistrust because there is a hunger and a thousand forms of inequity, injustice, violence and death. There is a collective feeling that our present has no future. There is uncertainty, a loss of the sense of life and much anguish. We live in difficult times for all spheres of life. Nevertheless, Catholic liturgy, in this time of Advent, once more invites us to the wait for Hope, the commitment and construction of better times . . .

I wish for all of us that this Advent 2009 fills us with hope; fills us with an always renewed strength to make possible our hope: which is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ be among us. That the Gospel be lived and announced by us for the construction of a better world; a world which is more just, more humane and more according to God’s wish.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Heart’s Memory

Each year, as Thanksgiving Day arrives, I remember the Gospel story in which only one out of ten cured lepers --a foreigner-- returned to Jesus to express his gratitude and to give glory to God for being cured.

This nation’s historical tradition invites us to give thanks during one day each year. Without doubt, it is the date which gets the most people together. It is the most familiar and nationally recognized of all celebrations in the United States. The tradition of this celebration goes way back to a historical gesture of which not all know the story but the majority celebrates. It is all due to the fact that the attitude and action of being grateful and giving thanks is a profoundly human tendency, and because of it, profoundly divine.

In the Eucharist, we Christians have the fountain, the base, and the beginning and end of the Christian life. The Greek word “eucaristía” means precisely, “to give thanks”. That is to say that the most authentic and genuine Christian posture is to live giving thanks to God who gives us all we are and all we have.

In the present “consumer driven society”, the importance we give to money, the importance we give to having instead of to being, impedes us from remembering that always and in all circumstances we are not self-sufficient; that we do not auto-provide ourselves. We do not remember the fact that others work to give us things and services which we enjoy; that to live, we all need each other; that we are, beyond rational animals, beings which are solidary in good and evil; social beings that, as human beings and believers are part of the creative work of God, and that the main dynamic is to serve.

When we become conscious of our social nature and our importance in a creation in which everything created serves to help us live each day in the spirit of service and gratitude.
What allows our hearts to be thankful is the capacity for opening our senses and being conscious of everything we have and everything we are. The consequences of this thankful understanding come without delay: the grateful human being is a joyful man or woman, confident, humble and hopeful . . . and waiting on that loving presence which surrounds us, and which Christians call Holy Trinity.

When Jesus teaches us to see all good things as gifts from God, he at the same time teaches us to give all things as gifts. In other words, every good gift received from God commits us to place all at the service of our brothers and sisters, following a lifestyle that does not hoard life selfishly but favors all, especially the needy. Therefore, gratitude and gratefulness are attitudes which require of each of us a time and space in which all human beings can have the capacity, the possibility and the joy of being grateful.

Gratitude is an attitude, but because it is an attitude it is also an obligation. Therefore on Thanksgiving Day we are grateful but also give away . . . May it be that, more than things we give our time, our presence, our lives –and not only one day a year—but each day of our lives.

May you all have a Happy Thanksgiving Day! May we all be able to always be grateful and to aid others in having a reason to always be grateful!!