The Greatest Gift

This week, as we begin the season of Advent, we focus on waiting well throughout the many seasons of life.

By: Rev. Stanley Krempa

Imagine a motion picture that begins with a sweeping panorama of all the centers of power in our society: brokerage houses, banks, government offices, huge universities, skyscrapers, media studios and military bases. Then, it cuts away to a desert scene where one man shouts out words whose saving power is heard at first by only a few, but whose impact can transform even those mighty seats of power.

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This is the setting of today’s Gospel reading. We are given an overview of the corridors of power in Jesus’ time, but the word of salvation is found not among them, but in the desert, in the voice of John the Baptist.

John’s message is a call to repentance. But it is more than that. It is a message of hope.

The church is like John the Baptist. The church is called to speak to people of our time with a message of repentance and of hope. Condemnations are a dime a dozen. They have their place, but a more precious commodity that we all need is hope. A clear diagnosis is important, but we really need to know about the cure. People who run for office know that their effectiveness is based not only on a critique of what is, but on a vision of what can be.

People with hope live differently than people without hope. Without hope, life is flat, pointless, lacking in vision. There is nothing to look forward to. People who are mired in poverty see no way out. People drowning in excess see no exit. People who have made mistakes in their life see no redemption. What is the result? Despair, social combustion and a slow slide toward the bottom.

With hope, however, people can find a way out. They can have dignity restored, they can turn the page on the past. Hope says that a different future is possible.

This is the point of Advent. It is not just a countdown of shopping days until Christmas. It is a season of hope. However deep the darkness, there is still the light. Advent reminds us that societies can change. A culture of death can become a culture of life; divisions within a society can heal; justice can become a concrete reality rather than an abstraction; and charity a component of societal living rather than a hobby.

The Old Testament prophet Baruch, in today’s first reading, speaks to the Jewish people scattered in exile. He speaks of a different future that awaits them. In a passage of splendid poetry brimming with hope, he writes, “Up, Jerusalem … look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west … rejoicing that they are remembered by God.”

The message of Advent is that a different future awaits us as well. A different future awaits our world. That new future is always ready and waiting to be born, if we will take the concrete steps to bring it to birth….View the full text here.

This column first appeared in The Arlington Catholic Herald. View it here

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