My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I am delighted to greet you at the start of the Church’s year; Advent Sunday, the day on which the first candle which symbolizes hope is lit on the Advent Wreath.
The theme of hope is a distinctive characteristic of the Biblical faith; it pervades both the Old and New Testaments. Advent is essentially about hope in the future coming of the saving God, who is present with the believer throughout the vicissitudes of life.
In the face of crises, frustrations, and disappointments, there is the insistence on hope in the future. The experience of God’s action in the past offers the inspiration to cope with the present and to instill in the believer that there is more in store. There can be an optimistic feeling about the future.
In today’s readings, the people of Israel held out hope even when they agonized over their state of affairs exiled from the Promised Land; Paul expressed confidence in a successful outcome amidst the disorder in the church at Corinth; and even more clearly, the Evangelist Mark echoed a note of hope in spite of the experience of persecution in the church in Rome.
Hope in the future is not an escape from reality, but, an expression of confidence that life is moving in a constant direction of fulfillment in Christ and until such time, one can trust God’s enabling grace to provide the means to sustain one’s endeavours. Advent, therefore, is meant to be a season of joyful expectation. “And what I say to you I say to all: ‘Keep awake.’” (Mark 13:37)