Advent for us

2nd Sunday of Advent
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
During the horror of Naziism during World War II in Germany, there emerged a truly heroic figure, a priest by the name of Fr. Alfred Delp. He was pastor of a parish in Munich, and an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime; quietly, he led a Resistance movement, and was arrested in 1944. After 6 months in prison, he was martyred by hanging.
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While in prison, he was able to write secretly some beautiful meditations on small scraps of paper that were smuggled out in the laundry. Not only during his prison time, but in all of his preaching, one of his favorite subjects was that of Advent, the time we are in today. In 1942 during a Holy Hour, he says: ‘These fateful days have hit us all hard, and we feel it. We want something more than this suffering and wory and visible distress that we have been going through.’
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Now he is talking about life under the Nazi’s, but I’m sure that those words might resonate with us today. There is more than enough to make us worried, or angry, or frustrated with the way the world seems to be going. But in all of those horrible years of the War, when Fr. Delp could have been arrested at anytime, he said: ‘Advent means remembering the freedom of God, and then abandoning ourselves to the divine unpredictability.’[i]
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God’s deep intention is to keep pursing us; pursing each person until he ‘gives’, until we freely give him our freedom, beyond our own desires or worries or crosses. St. Bernard, in an Advent homily says ‘Christ is our rest and consolation; therefore, keep God’s word and let it take possesion of your desires and your whole way of life.’ Allowing God to take posession of our life is not an easy thing, but as the saints tell us, it is the only way to true freedom.
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During this holy season, as we try to be more contemplative, we see that God is not only asking us to give him our whole heart, but we see that God is pursing us, chasing us down, as it were. Francis Thompson wrote a poem about this, of how God is pursuing us, the Hound of Heaven:
‘I fled from Him, down nights and days;
I fled from Him, down arches of the years,
of my own mind and in my tears – I hid from Him.’
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We hide from God in our own Will. He can’t get there. But if God is seeking us, then let him find us.
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Today John the Baptist’s disciples come to Jesus; he says: ‘What did you come out to the desert to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what did you come to see? This is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send my Angel before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.’  
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Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Christ; you say, ‘but Christ has already come!’ yes. There was that lost world before Christianity; lost in sin and idolatry and death and despair – with no hope, and Christ came. But isn’t that a description of much of our world today as well, without Christ. And it is emblematic of ourselves at times: dark and lost.
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These days are days to throw ourselves into the arms of God, and for once, to trust him and his plan. Even in our best moments, we often just check with God to see if our plans fit in ok with his.[ii] But it should really be the other way around. When the cross is in front of us, or fears paralyze us, or anger confounds us, maybe we can begin to seek the peace of embracing and suffering over the reality of the world.
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We mentioned Fr. Delp. Writing from prison, he recalled when once a good person gave him an Advent banner with an angel announcing the Good News.[iii] He says, ‘A bomb destroyed the angel. A bomb killed the good person, the terror of this time would not be bearable except for the promises of Advent.’
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For us, Advent is a time to be found by God, but he needs some silence, the Lord needs us to give him some quiet, to work in us. The 1st week of Advent spoke of the end of the world, signs in stars and moon, ‘the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’ This was to shake us – to shake us into reality. God is seeking to be close to us, he is asking for freedom to work in us; to give him our heart and our will; not in worry or resistance or defiance, but in docility.
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Think of the 1st Advent – what if Mary had not given her ‘fiat,’ her yes to the angel?[iv] What if in the desire for an untroubled life, this Virgin would have said, ‘no, I’m not up to this. I pass.’ Sure, God could have then found another way to save us. But what about Mary? Her life would have been pathetically empty, not even close to the potential God had offered her. She would never have become the Mother of all, and Queen of heaven.
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Following God’s will in our life is not an ‘accessory’ or an ‘add-on,’ any more than the training of an athlete is a mere ‘bonus’; following God’s will is essential to our becoming fulfilled.
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‘I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope.’ (Jer 29:11)
Advent is a time to put our trust in God. To abandon ourselves to the Divine unpredictability.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of Blessed Bartolo Longo]

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[i] Advent of the Heart – Alfred Delp, p. 81. Ideas in this homily are from this book.

[ii] p. 69

[iii] p. 26

[iv] see p. 83

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