2023 Advent Reflection by (C) Rose Hoover, rc
FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2023
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
- Mark 13:33-37
* * * * * *
Watch! We hear. Be watchful! This is a call not only to the people of Jesus’ day, but also to us. We too are called to watch. But what does that mean for us? Jesus has already come, has died, and is risen. So is it a call to watch for the Second Coming of Christ? Yes, we do look forward to the Second Coming. But is it only that? Advent teaches us to expect the presence of Christ not only in expected situations and places, but also where we might least expect to find him in our lives. The consolation—and the challenge—of the One who comes may be manifested through unlikely events or through people we might tend to dismiss. Everything in our lives, in fact, holds the possibility of encounter with the Divine.
We open our eyes and our hearts to family and friends, to the small child – and also to the hungry, the naked, the ill, the friend, the stranger, as Jesus teaches in Matthew 25. Not only is it true, as he says to us, that whatever we do to “the least of these who are members of my family” we do to Jesus, but we may also find God’s solace reaching out to us from these unexpected quarters. Nothing in our lives, no person in our lives, no event in our lives can be ruled out as a privileged meeting place with the abiding Christ who always comes, and who is now and forever with us, until the end of time (see Matthew 28:20). So we hear Jesus urge us: “Be watchful! Be alert!”
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2023
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
- Mark 1:1-8
* * * * * *
Discernment would have been required for a person encountering John. Here was this odd character, dressed in a strange manner, which might have suggested Elijah the prophet who “wore a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist” (see 2 Kings 1:8). What is more, this odd character ate sweetened insects (less startling in John’s day, I suspect, than in ours).
John, however, as remarkable as his appearance and his behavior were, did not try to draw attention primarily to himself or to his lifestyle in his proclamation. On the contrary he focused on “One mightier than I,” as we are called to do in our own witnessing to Christ. In his preaching, he urged the people to repent of their sins. And in his mission of baptism, he did not proclaim himself, but rather proclaimed the One who was to come after him, whose baptism, he assured them, would be “with the Holy Spirit.”
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2023
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.
- John 1:6-8, 19-28
* * * * * *
John the Baptist was just himself, and did not claim to be other. He was not the light, not the Christ, not Elijah, not the Prophet. He was responding to his particular call from God, as each one of us is called to do, and he did not pretend to be anything that might impress others more.
While he was not himself the Christ, his mission, however, pointed toward the Christ. Once again, this is also what all of us are to do, each in our own way. For some of us, the way of life to which we are led may be obviously religious. For others, our call may appear remarkably secular, but we live it in a way that glorifies God. Sometimes we must struggle in our fulfilling of this call, and we may feel like a “voice crying out in the desert.” Other times we may not even be aware that we are indeed glorifying God in our choices, and that our own voices and our own choices may be making “straight the way of the Lord” for someone.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2023
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
- Luke 1:26-38
* * * * * *
Mary is greatly troubled, we read. And indeed, it is natural to be troubled regarding what she is hearing. We often imagine the scene as happening quickly, but Mary takes the time to ponder. She is a prayerful and reflective person, so she does not respond immediately or assume she knows, on the spur of the moment, what this extraordinary call means. The word “docile” is often used in speaking of Mary. But Mary’s is a discerning docility. So she asks for more information. She questions the angel. “How can this be,” she says, “since I have no relations with a man?”
Mary feels the need to know more before she responds to the angel’s astonishing message. After all, this is an extraordinary lifetime commitment to which she is being called. And we are aware today that the major confirmation of her yes — of her words “May it be done to me according to your word” —will come in the living out her call as the mother of her son, Jesus, and in her loving experience of his life, death, and resurrection.
-Rose Hoover, rc