Advent: A Year’s Reflection, Hope and What to Do Now
By Fr John Allen Green – Without hope our path leads to death. But perhaps our hope like canned and looped holiday music has lost some of its lustre. After 20 years, 40 years and 60 years this same call to hope may have us either yawning or gritting our teeth.
Conflict, Conflict, Conflict
We have been witnesses to people born, suffering the loss of everything they hold dear and dying under brutal dictatorships or as the innocent pawns of greedy monopolies. We have seen young people’s dreams shattered and children dead on beaches, fleeing wars that they do not understand.
We see our beloved church squabbling over the use of words or whether we should kneel or not while our brothers and sisters feel themselves lost and alone. I witnessed the story of one young gay man moving from faith and hope and the work of caring for the poor moved to despair, loneliness and depression because of our angry ideologies; “this is not my Jesus, this is not my Christ!”
We have watched in sadness as the children of our African dictators use their looted wealth to pour a bottle of five thousand Rand champagne over a watch costing nine hundred thousand Rand while the majority of their people live below the poverty line. The lies and the manipulation of those who are the gatekeepers to our sources.
The Post-Truth Era
In this new post-truth era, borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and nonfiction. Deceiving others becomes a challenge, a game, and ultimately a habit. What motivates this dishonesty that’s become a creeping rot? Why do so many, even those with no apparent need to do so, feel a need to embellish their personal history? This question arises every time prominent figures are unmasked: business people, politicians, journalists, judges, military officers, police chiefs, beauty queens, newspaper reporters, parliamentarians, and the heads of sports committees; presidents and pastors.
The quoting of authority that is unsourced or irrelevant. Unearned degrees that show up on their resumes. Purchased patronage that is brazenly boasted about. The photoshopped lives of superlatives that are branded on public media; all “Post Truth”.
Can our sweet sounding pious sermons lift the darkness of those who have become victims to modern day slavery? Can the slick promises of the prosperity cults say anything to a dying child on the streets of Baghdad?
Don’t Fall For ‘Buy Me”
Somehow our joy seems far away and the rainbows grow dim as we feel the oppressive greyness of Advent preparations for the coming Christmas. The carols can feel empty and oppressive amid the glitzy rows of “buy me”.
The feverish preparations for family lunches and the exchange of gifts can weigh us down as we remember the long lists of our departed family and friends.
Pope Francis warns of the greatest threat of all that is the grey pragmatism of the daily life of the Church, in which all appears to proceed normally, which in reality faith is wearing down. Pope Francis warns against defeatism, urging Christians to become signs of hope, bringing about a revolution of tenderness. But we cannot give what we do not have. How do we relight our hope in this Advent season that leads us into the 2018 church year?
Relight Our Hope
Jesus showed us how to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. In our dealings with the world, we are told to give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns. Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary; if I can help at least one person to have a better life that already justifies the offering of my life.
Building an Advent “Garden”
Walk among the trees and look at their majestic fractural beauty remembering that they represent the most successful species the earth has ever seen; let us be grateful. Build a little Advent garden for gardens can only be planted in hope. Each time we leave home add 15 minutes to our trip to speak to the car guards and to greet the beggars; these are brothers and sisters and each have a story to tell in which we in can encounter Jesus. Let’s take time to visit an orphanage or the local animal shelter and help with walking the dogs.
May our encounter with Jesus in His Living Word bring us ALL to new Hope, Joy and Peace!