A few months ago, I watched a reality show program in a Philippine television which aims to grant people’s wishes. This particular episode was about a high school student who is left alone in this world. Her mother, the last of her relations died and she was left literally on her own. She was left to no one and with nothing. Later on, she had to move house because she couldn’t pay the rent anymore. In the process she had to sleep in the garage of her ‘friend’s house. Her friend offered a room for her in their house but she doesn’t want to be a burden in the family. She doesn’t want them to worry about her. She continued with her studies though. And she did everything to live on. She sold snacks to her classmates in school to earn money for food and for her allowance. Out of her own effort and determination, she finished her high school. Her friend wrote a letter to this specific TV program, asking if they can help this determined poor lady to live in a decent house and to continue her studies in the Uni, which they did. They gave her a scholarship grant for any four year course she likes, a small house to live in and a small business to live on.
Friends the story moved me so much because I saw in this lady that HOPE is indeed a very real thing. Because she hopes that something better and greater is reserved for her, she worked on it and she worked for it. She was determined to achieve it despite all odds and unlikely circumstances where she was in. And because, her hope is so real, people can see it as well. Thus, people are trying their best to help her realize her dreams.
Friends, today is the first Sunday of Advent. Jesus in our Gospel today urges us to ‘stay awake’ for his second coming. In other words let’s keep up, renew and make our hope real, our hope that Jesus is coming again. This is the message of advent. Yes, this season is also a celebration for the birth of Christ our Saviour, which is indeed worth rejoicing. But there is more. This season of advent also calls us to celebrate the hope that we have, to continue waiting in hope and to prepare ourselves for the day of our Lord Jesus Christ as St Paul tells us in our Second Reading.
How to celebrate the hope that we have? St Paul would remind us: To thank God for all the graces we have received through Jesus Christ. This is very important because there is always great temptation to forget who we are and to whom we are sent for as we live our lives now. It is not an uncommon attitude that when we achieve something greater, better or noble we take the credit to ourselves. But when we suffer misfortunes and the like, we blame it to others or to God. Celebrating in hope is to thank God for everything and for who we are.
How to continue waiting in hope? It means an active waiting. It means we have to do something. We can’t just sit down and look on the NEWS about the chaos happening in the different parts of the world today. If we are people of hope, we must have realized that this is not what the world is supposed to be. But what we can do here and now? We can think of many. Because we can really do many things. But we should not underestimate the power of our prayers. “Prayer”, as Bishop Joe Grech would say, “is not everything, but it is the first thing.” Have we prayed for this people and situations? If we did, are we praying seriously enough?
How to prepare ourselves for the coming of our saviour? It means establishing or renewing our friendship with God and friendship with people around us. What does it mean? Two things: First, Love. Love is the only thing that cements our relationships with God and with others. Love is what prophet Isaiah tells us of God in our First Reading today. Isaiah tells us that despite all our weakness, our sinfulness, even we complain against God, he remains to be our ‘Father’. Such is his unconditional love.
Second, Faith. Faith is the assurance of the things we hope for, according to the epistles. In a more simplistic way, faith is like an umbrella. An umbrella cannot stop the rain, but it helps us to stand in the rain. So also with faith, it cannot stop the events happening in Syria and Libya, as we want it to be, but it enables us to stand firm even if our shivering in the cold or even if our knees are trembling in fear or insecurity.
So as we start the season of advent and as we continue to wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, let’s pray and ask God that He’ll make our hope more real in us and that we will grow more in faith and in love. Amen.