In other news, Pope Francis declared this new liturgical year the Year of Consecrated Life. This is a very exciting announcement for not only Consecrated Religious, but all Catholics around the world. This designation will last until the World Day of Consecrated Life, on February 2, 2016. In the letter that Pope Francis issued concerning the Year of Consecrated Life, he cited 3 aims for this special time; he encouraged looking to the past with gratitude, living in the present with passion, and embracing the future with hope. Pope Francis also explained that the expectation of this year would be that consecrated men and women would be witnesses of Communion, the joy of the Gospel, and that they would go to the peripheries to proclaim the Good News. Therefore, we not only have a new liturgical year to be excited for, but we are also able to focus on Consecrated Life and all that these men and women have done and are doing for Catholic Church around world. With this focus we are encouraged to follow their example to help those in need and proclaim the Good News.
There is so much going on, but we can’t forget about the messages conveyed by this Sunday’s readings and Gospel, which echo the message of a having hope and patience in the expectation of not only Christmas and the birth of Christ, but also the second coming of Christ. Although despair and desperation can be found in the first reading from this Sunday, there is also a sense of perseverance and motivation. Guilt and desperation can be seen in the verse: “We have all become like something unclean, all our just deeds are like polluted rags; We have all withered like leaves, and our crimes carry us away like the wind” (Is 64:5). Isaiah explains how life is hard, how people are longing for the return of God to bring them to glory: “Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage” (Is 63:17). Sometimes we might feel cut off from God, we might be stuck in a rut, where time and again things are not turning out that way that we had hoped or envisioned. We might pray to God, asking for His help in our need, and yet God works in mysterious ways, not always answering our needs in the way that we expect or anticipate. However, God has our best intentions at heart, and He knows what is best for us at all times.
The Gospel continues the call for virtuous patience. Before diving into analysis of the Gospel, I have a question for you. Would you rather receive a dollar at this very moment or wait a year and receive a million dollars? I might be crazy, but I think I would sacrifice a year if it meant receiving a million dollars. Well we exhibit this type of anticipation in our everyday lives; it is what adds purpose to our daily lives. Focused patience helps us to achieve long term goals. For example, what do you hope to gain out of this Advent Season and the season of Christmas that it is leading up to? Family time, toys, the birth of Christ, even the second coming of Christ? In this Gospel, there is no time specified for when Christ will come again, there are only conditions and events that can occur up to His return. For all we know, this upcoming Advent Season could lead to the Second Coming of Christ. Although this might seem nerve-racking, it is somewhat of a relief to know that Christ does not require special knowledge or a specific superficial appearance or power or wealth, all He requires is that we wait, staying awake with persistence and vigilance, keeping the ‘night watch.’ At the time that Jesus was proclaiming the message in this Gospel, society was only concerned with the present, pressing situations. If something had to be put off until tomorrow, then it would simply be delayed indefinitely. However, when the subject of the end of time came up, Jesus warned against procrastination. Jesus was essentially telling his followers to be vigilant and watchful of future events. Much like the early Church members, we must maintain a virtue of patient vigilance. As we enter this season of excitement and anticipation for Christmas, we must always remind ourselves to remain strong in our faith, even in the face of difficulty. We will most likely not have to worry about the severe problems that the early Church members had to face, but, even in simple daily interactions, we must remember to live a life of faith. The vigilance that Christ is expecting of us is not easy, but our effort, even though it may not always be perfect, will be rewarded.