Archbishop Follo: To Educate the Heart and Mind to Wait
November 30, 2018. With the wish that the joy of the Advent be the joy of the encounter of Love.
Roman Rite – 1st Advent Sunday – Year C – December 2, 2018
Jer 33:14-16; 1 Thes 3-12 4-2; Lk 21:25-28 — 34-36
Raise your eyes to heaven
Ambrosian Rite – III Advent Sunday
Is 45:1-8; Ps 125; Rm 9:1-5; Lk 7:18-28
The Lord has done great things for us
An Advent heart
Advent, the waiting for the Savior, comes timely to the Christian consideration, a regular recurrence never iterative because it indicates the new stage of a journey that fortifies the faith in the coming Lord. It is a journey that becomes a sequence more and more perfect up to the final encounter with Jesus.
In today’s gospel, everything is described as catastrophic events which shake the stars and throw humanity into confusion. (Lk 21:25-26). Luke doesn’t want to announce the end of the world. He uses the apocalyptic way to say that the final fall of Jerusalem will be a conclusive stage for the establishment of God‘s Kingdom in the world. Considering the end of Jerusalem, the first Christians concluded that the end of the Saint City did not coincide with the final return of Christ. Therefore the return of Christ is not easy to foresee but the signs can be recognized by the ones who have “an Advent heart” (Father Primo Mazzolari). It is a heart outstretched towards the God who comes and donates himself.
It is an Advent heart that prepares itself to gracefully welcome the Savior craved by all and awaited by the Chosen People. Christ is the “seed’’ in Jeremiahs’ lecture. He is the new man sent by God to restore justice. It is not a punishing justice, rather a merciful gift that gives the dignity of son and daughter to every man and woman and reconnects the communion with God the Father.
In today’s liturgy of the World of God (everlasting gift that makes us understand God’s loyalty), we find a message of preparation for the coming of our Master, the Emmanuel, God with us. The gospel is symbolic in this regard and doesn’t allow any confusion: Christ will come on the clouds with the divine power He owns. We are sure of this coming and for this reason, we must prepare ourselves with prayers. We must not only increase our prayer time but also live a constant attitude of prayer. In fact, only those who humbly put themselves in front of God and have faith in Him can wait for the coming Christ without fear.
Alongside prayer, we must conduct a good life maintaining a behavior worthy of the light, as St Paul reminds us “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now, our salvation is nearer than when we believed.  The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light.” ( Rm 13: 11b.12-13a)
2. An Advent heart that becomes a crib.
During Advent time we receive this invitation: “Lift up your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Lk 21:28). Let’s open our minds and our hearts to welcome the One whom the entire world is waiting for: Jesus. Let’s lift up our eyes to the Master and let’s live waiting for Him in vigilant prayer because every moment is pregnant with salvation.
The liturgy tells us about our origins and our final destination. When a child is being baptized the priest asks to the parents: “What are you asking the Church for this child?” And the answer is “Eternal life”. From the beginning, we know our landing. The beginning and the end are indissolubly linked together. Our life will not be as Ulysses’ Odyssey rather the exodus of Israel from slavery to liberty in the promised land, where the freedom of the unselfish love for God and the generous service to neighbors is cultivated. The God who becomes flesh for love puts himself in our weak hands and in our hearts that become a crib. If we live in charity, every moment becomes the presence and the coming of God in us. If we live in charity, God lives in our heart always: in the evening, at midnight, at sunrise, in the morning.
The instant of the meeting is hidden in every moment. Let’s be always vigilant to try to understand the meaning of all things. Let’s be vigilant regarding the meaning of time. Let’s be vigilant regarding the times of life. Advent is the blessed time when God comes. Advent is a time of waiting and a time of joy because every coming of Christ is a gift of grace and salvation that pushes us to live the present as a time of responsibility and vigilance. “Vigilance” means the need of an industrious and firm waiting because we can count on a faithful God.
3. What if the Heart of God is waiting for us?
During Advent, the Church asks us to live the wait of God who comes to us. We need a pure heart to recognize the Infinite, which is made flesh as a Child in a manger. We cannot keep ourselves from being happy for a God who is so close to us up to the point to be born in Bethlehem (city of bread) to become Bread of Life.
One thing is certain: we can live without God or we can put away Him in a corner, but He never leaves us. He is respectful of the freedom He gave us and waits for our awakening. When we finally open our eyes, we see the deception of the evil, which makes our hearts blind with the lure of things. How many times do we answer to the desire of infinite with an infinite number of things! (Alexander Solgenistin).
How can things without a soul such as money or other possessions be considered happiness? If we are true to ourselves we feel that we miss “Someone.” Nothing charms us for long, nothing fulfills us.
If we are honest to ourselves we should say, as in Proverbs: “Vanity of vanities”. We need indeed of the One who can guide us beyond the vanity and the poverty of this earth. The point is that we don’t know how and don’t want to go searching. Advent is the time to open the doors and the windows of our souls to hear the ‘steps’ of the coming God. It is not wise to hide to ourselves the longing for the Father who waits for us as the merciful father waited for the prodigal son. When the prodigal son (every one of us) came back it was “Christmas” because the son who was dead returned to life.
Let’s live the time of Advent with the confidence that God is waiting for us in the Manger, at the Last Supper, on the Calvary, in the Church and at the end in His and our Home.
The attitude of a believer is not the one of a naive dreamer because its foundations are not on human things or on chances. The believer knows that life is changed by the encounter with Life.
Waiting is to live thinking not only of us. We must look around us and we’ll see many brothers and sisters who like us are “beggars of love.” In their company, we must look above.
Daily life can be heavy on our heart, but if we live it in dedication to God and with our brothers and sisters our heart will remain as light as a feather. Let’s look at the example of the consecrated Virgins, who imitate the consecration of Mary, Virgin, and Mother. The Madonna “The Virgin of the waiting and the Mother of hope” (Pope Benedict XVI) is the star of the Advent and the “Door” that the Son has crossed to enter in the world. These consecrated women are called to live in vigilance (RCV # 21), to persevere in dedication to God, to give themselves to Christ (in doing so they give Christ to their brothers and sisters). In this way, they serve God and the Church. (RCV #36)
Beside prayers and moderation in eating, let’s build a Nativity in our homes. It will help us to lift up our eyes to remember the beginning of God living with us. Doing so we will not suppress our longing for God and will avoid the hardening of our eyes and of our heart.
For those of you who have more time, I propose the Sermons over the Advent by St Bernard of Clairvaux.
For the ones who can understand Italian I suggest reading the following poetry by Clemente Rebora:
con imminenza di attesa –
e non aspetto nessuno:
spio il campanello
che impercettibile spande
un polline di suono –
e non aspetto nessuno:
fra quattro mura
stupefatte di spazio
più che un deserto
non aspetto nessuno:
ma deve venire;
verrà, se resisto,
a sbocciare non visto,
quando meno l’avverto:
verrà quasi perdono
di quanto fa morire,
verrà a farmi certo
del suo e mio tesoro,
verrà come ristoro
delle mie e sue pene,
verrà, forse già viene
il suo bisbiglio.
Advent means “coming”. It is clear that we are awaiting the coming of Christ.