The Challenge of Advent in 2018

27 Oct 2018 by SHRCChurch, Comments Off on The Challenge of Advent in 2018

At no time of the year is Christian faith more under siege by the secular, sic, anti- Christian and consumerist world we are forced to live in, than during the Advent season.  This is the time of year which is make or break for the purveyors of want rather than need.  So the pressure to entice us to its false values is at its highest.

St Thomas Aquinas tells us that the will always seeks the good.  Even when we make a mistake in judgment, we seek what we think at the moment, is good.  The Devil knows this.  And the merchants of want rather than need know it as well.  Thus, our world is filled with deceitful euphemisms, e.g. we no longer buy used cars, but rather pre-owned ones.  We no longer spend money to buy things.  Rather we buy things to “save” money.  We buy things to “get one free,”etc., i.e. any ruse that might entice us to think we are pursuing the good.

One of the tools of the mercantile deceit is to inspire competition rather than cooperation.  So, e.g. we have to get out there early to buy the best Christmas tree before someone else gets their hands on it.  We have to rush to buy our gifts before the stores (would have you believe) run out.  If we see our neighbor with something, then we have to have one too, preferably a better one, to demonstrate our superiority.  And we tickle our egos with the smug presumption that we are organized and prepared well in advance.  Do we ask for what?  The best the milieu around us can offer is the repeated ad nauseam fatuous “magic of the season”.  It never gets any deeper than that.  In the meantime, everything is rush, rush to prevent us from asking the question, what is it all for?

If we are sensitive to the spirit of the Liturgy, we might notice that the atmosphere is one of longing for, waiting for the arrival of something wonderful.  We believe that we are not just waiting to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, but rather recognize that without God’s help, all we humans have been able to accomplish is to multiply misery.  We have become captives to our own self- seeking, our own delusions as to what constitutes true joy and happiness.  God, however, freely chose not to leave us to our delusions, not to remain, as it were, at a distance, but rather to establish a human relationship with us by becoming human like us.  He chose to be Emanuel, i.e. God with us.

The problem with human relations, however, is that if they are to bring us true joy and happiness, they must be a two way street.  There must be give as well as take.   We can choose to ignore Emanuel’s offer, perhaps not explicitly, but rather implicitly, by being too busy, too preoccupied with other things, not having  the time, etc. for Emanuel.  That’s the rub.  And that is why we have the season of Advent, to regain and renew focus on what is really important in life. (And at the very time when the world around us would have us do the opposite!).  Think, e.g. what it might be like if someone we loved dearly had been on the other side of the world for some time, and finally came back home to us.  Would we ignore him?  Would we tell him we haven’t the time or are too busy to pay attention to him?  I don’t think so.  Rather he would have priority.  We would willingly make time for him.  We would make ourselves available to reciprocate his offer of a loving relationship, rather than allow ourselves be captivated by other pressures.

In the book of Genesis it is related that Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, our father in faith, spent a night wrestling with the divine.  As a result God changed his name from Jacob to Israel, which in Hebrew means one who wrestles with or struggles with God.  If we are serious, the Advent season is a time of struggle for us against the pressures of the pagan world around us.  May our response constantly and perseveringly be: “O come O come Emanuel.  And ransom captive Israel.”

By Edward J. Martin, SSL, STD

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