[Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., Homily: ADDU Advent Thanksgiving Mass. Martin Hall. Dec. 13, 2019.]
We come together in the Season of Advent. Advent is a season of waiting. Advent is a season of celebrating hope.
I say that because between faith, hope, and love, hope is too often the overlooked poor cousin. At ADDU, we are fortes in fide, strong in the faith, for faith relates us to God, and we are strong in our faith in God. And looking into the eschatological future, St. Paul says, “Then shall abide faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” But what do we say of hope?
Advent is the Season of Hope. In the Philippines, we tend to ignore this season. Already at the start of September, we begin singing, “Whenever I see boys and girls selling lanterns on the street, I remember the Child in the manger as he sleeps…” We love the celebration of Christmas with its gift-giving, its special decorations, its media noche, it’s bringing together of family and friends today more and more from all over the world. And certainly no family, no individual, should be without a joyful celebration of Christmas.
But the value of what we have is most appreciated when we don’t have it. Like when the water runs out. Or when the electricity is gone. How often have we had to say, I hope the water finally comes back tomorrow. I hope the electricity returns!
Advent is the Season of Hope. It is the Season of Waiting. Advent recognizes what we don’t yet have, yet celebrates that what we don’t yet have is certainly to come. We celebrate hope not just because we’re naturally optimistic, not just because my parents or my teachers said so, nor because we trust in our rationality, technology, and power to bring about what we yet don’t have. Our hope in Advent is rooted in our relationship with God, our trust in what He says, our faith, and our conviction that we are loved. So even in Advent hope is impossible without faith and love; but in Advent, we focus on hope.
Especially through the images celebrated during the Advent liturgy! Let me just highlight a few:
For those of us who think that it is difficult to find the Lord, to find his dwelling, for those of us who think they have no place in his house, look to the highest mountain, Isaiah says: “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream towards it, many people shall come and say, ‘Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths’” (Is. 2:1-2).
For those of us waiting for the right ruler, one who will not be arrogant in his manner, unjust in his judgments and disrespectful of the Lord, Isaiah says, “A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots, a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of good judgment and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord,” (Is: 11:1-2) that is, the fear of separating himself from God, in his policies, the fear of offending the Lord in his care for human beings.
To those who are working and waiting for peace, for a resolution to disputes between nations and peoples, religions and othered religions, for a stop to violence and destruction, sometimes experienced painfully among warring colleagues and officemates, Isaiah says, “Then, the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.” (Is 11:6-8)
To those who are hungry, who just do not have enough to eat; or to those who have too much to eat, and who are yet hungry, hungry for understanding among peoples and nations, hungry for life stronger than death, Isaiah says, ”On the mountain, the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich foods and choice wines, juicy rich foods and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” (Is 25:6-8a).
Perhaps such images in the Season of Advent will help you to locate that for which you hope in life. For life without hope has no depth, no direction, no meaning. The Season of Advent may help you clarify what the foundation of your hope is – that your dreams may come true, or that your deepest desires might be fulfilled. Too easily we teach children that their hopes will be fulfilled by a Santa Claus. Perhaps in a similar manner too easily we teach others and ourselves that our hopes will be fulfilled simply by due diligence and hard work; we learn to trust in “the system” that puts us to work, the same system that we also learn in experience to mistrust. Isaiah says, “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is an eternal rock.” (Is: 26: 4) He says in our reading for today, “I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. If you would listen to my commands, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea…” (Is 48:17-19).
In God we trust; in his love, we hope; he will not disappoint. He comes to teach us, to guide us, to redeem us, to lead us up to his highest mountain where the fullness of life is our prize. This is the Advent hope which we celebrate in God with us: “For,” as Isaiah says: “a child is born to us, a son is given us, and government rests on his shoulders. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:16).