During the season of Advent we place a statue of the Blessed Mother at the center of the Advent Wreath in our St. Joseph Chapel. I invite you to visit her during this wonderful season. You will see that this lovely statue depicts Mary, pregnant with the baby Jesus. She has her head slightly bowed and her eyes are closed. There is a faint hint of a smile on her lips. Her hands are folded across her heart. She seems peaceful, humbly yet resolutely accepting her mission to become the Mother of God. I have always wondered what might have gone on under the pious veneer of this statue. What was Mary really doing and thinking while expecting the birth of Jesus.
Advent is said to be the season of waiting. Mary awaiting the birth of her son embodies the kind of waiting we are expected to do. Like Mary’s waiting, Advent waiting is not a passive anticipation for whatever is to come. It is a waiting that is full of hope and expectation. It is a waiting that is marked by some level of consternation and trepidation. And it is a waiting that requires anticipation and preparation.
And though the kind of waiting is similar, Mary awaited the birth of Jesus while we await his return. For us, the celebration of the birth of Jesus is the anticipation of his return and the fulfilment of the promise he embodies.
During advent we await his promise of light proclaimed to a world spiraling into ever greater darkness. And as we await the fullness of light we must fight the darkness.
During advent we await his promise of love proclaimed to a world devoured by violence, kindled by rapidly spreading hatred. And as we await the fullness of love we must fight all forms of hatred.
During advent we await his promise of life proclaimed to a world that is consumed by a culture of death and on the brink of ecological collapse. And as we await the fullness of life we must fight the evil forces of death.
Advent is a reminder of our human calling and capacity to embrace light, to foster love and to promote life. However, as human history has proven over and over again these three human and Christian values are not easily attained and come at a cost. So, like Mary who prepared for the birth of her son we need to prepare for his return. We do this with hope and anticipation, preparation and some trepidation.
As we work together to turn darkness into light; hatred into love and death into life we can be assured that the hope-filled words of the Prophet Isaiah we read on this third Sunday of Advent will be fulfilled:
“The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.”