Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday of Advent: Moving towards Joy

“Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed … come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” – Rom 13:11-12, Is 2:5

It happened again. My niece Tiki always erupts in joy whenever I come to visit. I don’t treat her differently from my other nieces and nephews. I love them all, just the same. Somehow, she knows that I love her, that she’s special in my eyes. In her reception of my Thanksgiving visit, Tiki helps to shape my attitude towards Advent.

The first two readings today and the responsorial describe a movement toward a source of joy: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain … let us go rejoicing to the house of the LORD … our salvation is near … walk in the light!” The Gospel urges the hearer to be prepared for Christ’s coming in surprising, unexpected ways. For when someone whom we know loves us comes near, joy also visits.

We may be happy to eat good food, hear good news, be in good company, or get a great bargain. We may be grateful to receive something we did not earn or deserve. Yet, joy is something different, because it’s essentially a transforming encounter with another person. Usually with someone whom we know loves us and brings out our best selves. Our heart leaps. The loving recognition of the person fills our hearts with gladness and hope that radiate through our dancing eyes and smiling lips. Who elicits such a response in us? What if God wants to encounter each of us in a similar way, gradually erupting joy anew?

The Advent season gives us the opportunity to “be embraced by [God’s] tenderness and forgiveness,” as Pope Francis invites. His Apostolic Exhortation orients us well for Advent. The pope encourages all Christians to embark on a new journey of joy, witnessing and sharing faith, by encountering Christ anew, in deeper ways.

What if we begin our Advent journey building on the blessings of Thanksgiving? It may a gradual process, but what if we begin with gratitude?

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