Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44
This is one popular statement here in the Philippines: “You are missing half of your life!” It is used to tease a person who has not experienced some seemingly important thing in a very deep and complete way. The jester gives the impression that the other person’s life is not complete until he has actually and fully experienced that very thing that is supposedly life-fulfilling. Some things are never complete until we actually experience them.
The same can be said for the Church’s liturgical seasons. Advent, like any other liturgical season, is not just meant to be celebrated or commemorated but it must also be experienced in our daily lives. It is not enough to remember how the prophets of old spoke of the coming of the Savior and longed for Him and how He eventually came to us through the faithful cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit.
Advent must also touch us deeply and affect how we actually live our daily lives, making us truly Advent people. As long as this deeply personal experience is lacking, our Advent is not complete and we can be said to be “missing half of our lives.”
There are three things about Advent that we continuously experience in our lives and beings simultaneously.
We experience the darkness of Advent
There is a darkness of Advent because we are sinners living in a fallen world and called to journey home to God by faith through a path of many dangers and difficulties. We experience the reality of sin within us and in the world. We experience pain and sickness. We hurt each other and also feel hurt by others. There is the ever-present possibility of death and that feeling that we do not know when it will strike. We can deceive ourselves and even doubt if we are on the right path or if we have the strength to go all the way into God’s kingdom.
We feel out of control as we face our weakness, limitedness, and brokenness. We struggle to be faithful to our commitments to God and to others despite our good intentions and firm resolve. Nothing satisfies us completely in this life. We experience a heavenward pull as well as strong desires for worldly things. Even the Church, the sacrament of salvation and unity, has become plagued with endless abhorrent scandals from her ministers and faithful.
We must face and embrace this darkness as a reality that we cannot escape from. We cannot hide and pretend it does not exist or just wish that it goes away like a mist. Advent invites us to embrace this darkness without getting overwhelmed by it. Without deeply experiencing this darkness, we will never realize our need for a Savior and we will not long for His glorious return as we should.
We experience the expectation of Advent
While we face and embrace the darkness of Advent, we also live in confident and joyful expectation of our Savior. We are confident of His return in glory because we know that we belong to Him now because of His life, passion, death, and resurrection. How can the Savior forget His own whom He created and died for on the cross?
We live in that joyful hope because we know that the darkness of our Advent will not last forever, “For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” We experience this hope based on the certainty of the Lord’s return.
We also give witness to this joyful hope before others by our new and holy way of life that completely abandons and repudiates sinful lifestyles, “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.” Advent expectation demands a new way of life and a call to witness to the joy of the Lord.
We experience the vigilance of Advent
More than just enduring darkness or expecting a Savior at the end of time, Advent also invites us to be attentive to the many ways that the Savior is present to us now and active to save us. Emmanuel, “God with us,”(Mt 1:23) always comes to us at each moment with saving graces.
In Mt 24:37-44, Jesus used the example of the people of Noah’s time to emphasize the need for our vigilance so that we can notice the saving graces that God is offering to us all the time, even in the darkest moments. Let us remind ourselves that Noah’s ark was fully constructed before the destructive floods came. Noah’s contemporaries were not vigilant enough to notice the saving grace of the ark that was present right before them. They were too busy indulging themselves with eating, drinking, and marital relationships to inquire about the deeper significance of the ark.
We too must be vigilant now to how God is offering us saving graces and respond to these graces. This is how we actually “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (See Rom 13:11-14). Christ comes to us all the time to clothe us with His own garment of fidelity to the Father and make us worthy of being with Him in glory.
He comes to us all the time – in the moment of prayer, when we encounter Him in the sacraments, in other persons with whom we are in contact, in the events of our daily lives, in the duties of our state of life, etc. The advent season is a time for us to sharpen our ability to welcome Him and respond to His graces. The graces of each moment help prepare us to welcome Him in His second coming.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not only celebrate or commemorate this Advent season. Let us also experience it deeply in a transforming way. If we begin to allow ourselves to be impacted by what we celebrate, our entire lives on earth will be one continuous Advent. If our entire lives become an embodiment of Advent, we can renounce the false and empty promises of this world, endure the present darkness, give credible witness to Jesus, and live with hope and a strong desire for final union with God.
By the grace of each Eucharist, let us embrace with endurance the darkness of Advent, confidently and joyfully expect the Savior at the end of time, and be vigilant to welcome Him in any way that He comes to us in our daily lives.
This is how we make our Advent complete and ensure that, as we say here in the Philippines, we do not miss half of our lives.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!