Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Hope
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast". So wrote Alexander Pope, English poet and essayist in his essay on Man. The theme of hope and expectation is central to the liturgy as, during Advent, we prepare to celebrate Christ's first coming. This event set the stage for the fulfilment of the divine Plan of Salvation. But Advent also speaks of Christ's second coming when judgement will be made on how this plan has been accepted by people. Promise and acceptance and judgement - three pivotal pillars of Christian thinking.

Isaiah: 63:16-17,19; 64,1-7: Following the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Jewish people into exile, Isaiah utters his cry of anguish and hope -"Return, for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance".

1 Cor.:1:3-9: Paul encourages the Corinthians to recognise the gifts and favours they have received from the Lord and to use these gifts so as to be ready for the return of the Lord.
Mark 13: 33-37: Stay awake so as not to be taken by surprise; for the Lord may come when least expected.

Point 1: Two responses, among others, stand out in every person's life. There is expectancy, and there is disappointment. We are disappointed when our expectations are not met. So much of our lives is spent in waiting for things to happen - as children we wait to be fed; we wait to commence school; we wait to graduate and to commence earning; husbands and wives spend a good deal of their time waiting on, or for, each other; we wait for the big opportunity, the big promotion - one power ball! But it rarely happens the way we would have it happen. It is then that the second response, disappointment, enters the picture. This sense of disappointment does not have to be soul destroying, but it frequently does have a drastic effect on a person's thinking. Relationships may become strained as a result of moodiness. Marriages are put at risk; parent - children relationships become strained. In very extreme cases, depression leads to self destruction. And this sense of disappointment is not only found in those who, to all intents and purposes, have succeeded in climbing the ladder of success, but yet are still dissatisfied.

Point 2: Why is this so? Could it be because it is SOMEONE, not SOMETHING, that is missing? The religious person's answer is "Yes"! Association with the Infinite alone offers satisfaction to the total aspirations of the human, finite, being. And, for the Christian in particular, association with the Infinite is achieved through Christ. In his "Confessions", St. Augustine summed this up for us with this statement - "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts can never rest until they rest in You".

Conclusion: This theme of Hope is central to this season of Advent. But it is not just a time when we look back to the great event of God's presence and action among people. We are being asked to realise that God is not only a God who has acted in the past, and acts in the present in history and sacrament; He is also God of the future. This image of Christ who is to come again "to judge the living and the dead" is there to help revive in us the hope that can inspire and support us in the disappointments that so often invade and depress the spirit. Advent is, above all, a time for asking God to stir up in us a deeper conviction that He is in control of the future, as He has shown Himself to be in the past.

Scriptural reference: "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall praise Him again, my help and my God" (Psalm 42:11)