Happy New Year! It’s nice to begin this Church year in a warm church. I have always loved the season of Advent. As the outside world — even the space outside the church — is already into Christmas, with decorations and shopping and parties and meals, inside we are in Advent: a time of preparation for Christ’s coming—both at the end of time and as a little child. I somehow think that inside-outside dialectic is key. I can be preparing for Christmas externally, and yet interiorly be looking at my relationship with God and whether I’m prepared to receive the Christ into my life. Sometimes that comes easily, and other times it’s quite difficult—yet I’m convinced that it’s important.
We are now in “Year A”, and will be reading from the Gospel according to Matthew. This gospel is addressed to a Christian community made up primarily of Jews who had converted, and it is rich with images from and references to the Hebrew Bible. We will see Jesus as the new Moses, who comes to inaugurate God’s definitive law of peace. This weekend Jesus refers to the story of Noah’s ark. People were just living their lives, going on about their business, with no idea that the flood was about to happen. In other words, they were looking at everything they had to do, all the “externals”, and weren’t paying attention to where they were with God.
In May of 2015, Pope Francis addressed the encyclical Laudato si’ to “every person living on this planet”. In this bold document, he challenges the human community to look at what we are doing to the earth, our common home. I can almost hear Jesus’ words from the gospel: “… they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, …” buying cars and going to work, worried about the daily cares of life, and didn’t realize they were destroying the earth. The Holy Father asks us to make those connections, to realize the effects that our daily decisions have on the earth and, consequently, on other people around us and those who will follow.
Our first reading this weekend is a beautiful vision from the prophet Isaiah, a vision of peace and reconciliation. The home of God’s people is presented as a light, an attraction for all peoples, teaching them the ways of the Lord. As we begin this blessed season of Advent I pray that we may be beacons of
service, mercy, and discipleship, inviting others into God’s light and allowing them to experience God’s peace.