First Sunday of Advent Reflection

The Ladies of Charity USA gratefully acknowledge the Sisters of Charity of New York for sharing their Advent reflection.

This reflection is one of several spiritual resources offered to you during this season. After this prayerful reflection, please visit our Advent Spirituality page for more.

First Sunday of Advent – Nov. 27, 2011

Isaiah 63:16-19; 64:2-7 ~ Ps. 80 ~ I Cor. 1:3-9 ~ Mark 13:33-37

“You break the power of evil and make all things new in your Son Jesus Christ, the King of the universe….Free all the world to rejoice in his peace, to glory in his justice, to live in his love.” (Opening Prayers)

Here we are again, at the end of one Church year and the beginning of another. Trees grow bare and cold winds blow, partisan bickering in Congress gets uglier by the moment, millions in our country are without jobs, homes, and hope, and the gap between the desperately poor and the scandalously rich widens with each day’s news. We may be saying to God with some frustration, “You make all things new? I sure don’t see where!”

As one commentator remarked, “I find myself praying, ‘Give us a break, Lord!  Is this any way to run a railroad?’ ”

St. Elizabeth Seton would urge us to find the grace in this present moment, this challenging time in history.  Where do we see signs of Jesus Christ, making all things new?

The Constitution of the Sisters of Charity reminds us that “the Gospel overturns all purely human understanding of authority.’ Jesus offers us an alternative way. Jesus gives us a different lens through which to view leadership. We get a glimpse of that lens in the readings for the feast of Christ the King.

Newness comes through those who act like shepherds, who make a home to gather those scattered,  who look after the weak and wounded. God promises to act this way with us (Ezekiel).  Jesus paints an unforgettable picture of the end times when we will be judged not on our right thinking, our orthodoxy, our adherence to rules, but on our care for the least among us (Matt. 25).

Christ our leader doesn’t seek to be at the top of the pyramid, or to claim privilege (like a multimillion dollar bonus, perhaps) at the expense of others. Our leader doesn’t demand our servile homage; he doesn’t “lord it over” us like the world’s rulers.

Rather, Christ sets the bar high by stooping low, by showing us what true servant leadership looks like, by going the extra mile to rescue the lost and shepherd the wounded. We keep waiting and longing for the day to come when all of us who bear leadership responsibilities, great and small, will follow Jesus’ example of serving others like a caring shepherd.

Sts. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac lived this Gospel. They saw the face of Christ in those who were hungry, thirsty, outsiders, naked, sick, or imprisoned. In our own time, Dorothy Day was one who carried on their legacy.

A mother, convert, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, lover of the poor, and untiring activist for peace and social justice, Dorothy died Nov. 29, 1980. (Sisters of Charity can be proud that Dorothy became a Catholic in 1927 through the tutelage of Sister Aloysia Mary Mulhearn, then on mission at St. Joseph’s Home, Huguenot, Staten Island. ) The Church has declared her “Servant of God,” the first step toward being named a Saint.

The prayer for Dorothy Day’s cause for canonization says in part: “May her life inspire people to turn to Christ as their Savior and guide, to see his face in the world’s poor and to raise their voices for the justice of God’s kingdom.”

In his Advent homily of 2008, Pope Benedict XVI offers us much to reflect on: “Certainly, we don’t want the end of the world to come now. But, on the other hand, we want this unjust world to end. We also want the world to be deeply changed, the civilization of love to begin, a world of justice and peace, without violence, without hunger, to arrive. We all want this — and how can it happen without the presence of Christ? ….Come, Lord! Come to your world, in the way that you know. Come where there is injustice and violence. Come to the refugee camps…. in so many places in the world. Come where drugs dominate. Come, too, among those rich people who have forgotten you and who live only for themselves. Come where you are not known. Come to your world and renew the world of today. Come also to our hearts. Come and renew our lives. Come to our hearts so that we ourselves can be light of God, your presence.

In this sense, let us pray with St. Paul: Maranà, thà! Come, Lord Jesus! And let us pray that Christ may be really present today in our world, and that he may renew it.”

The season of Advent challenges us: “Don’t let the bad news get you down, don’t let it cloud your vision. Keep looking around, keep staying awake (Mark). The signs of the reign of God are all around you.  You don’t want to miss them.”  May our God who is faithful keep us firm to the end (I Cor.)

Sister Regina Bechtle, SC
Sr. Regina, currently Charism Resource Director 
for the Congregation,
writes, lectures, & offers programs and retreats 
about St. Elizabeth Seton
and the spirituality of the Sisters of Charity.

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