As I write this, there’s a storm overhead and the sound of sirens and other traffic noise on Condamine Street. Quiet is often elusive here, part of our experience in modern living where silence can almost feel threatening, yet we are invited into the Advent Season of waiting, stillness, reflection and expectation.
In the northern hemisphere, dwindling daylight sets the scene as the natural environment moves towards the growing darkness out of which emerges the newborn Saviour, Jesus the Light of the World! The Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent bids us to be ready and watchful for the Lord’s coming in glory. The Lord is coming to us and we in turn must come to him and be receptive to him.
As this new liturgical year begins, we are waiting for Christmas, a time of expectation and hope even as we deal with the tension between the secular and religious moods, the former focusing mostly on us, the latter focusing mostly on God. Even when we become caught up in the busyness and noise, something within us may crave at least some quiet time.
Our Scripture readings emphasise that ‘the time’ has come. The people of Isaiah’s time knew well the disastrous destruction of Jerusalem and their treasured Temple and looked forward to a future of restoration. So many in our country resonate with that experience in the wake of chronic drought and destructive bushfires. Always the question - Is our human spirit resilient enough to hope for restoration and healing?
Many of you, I’m sure, face that question when visiting significant places, especially those associated with war and conflict in Europe and Asia. For me it was Nagasaki where Futoshi Matsuo OSA was ordained to the priesthood. Even with all the normal cars, buses and other city traffic, Nagasaki was an almost silent city, with a sense of awe that an event of deep significance had happened there. Pope Francis’ visit to Nagasaki and Hiroshima this past week reminds us again of our own vulnerability when confronted by years of war across the world and the potential even now to choose extreme means to find a solution.
At Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park, Francis laid a wreath of flowers at a memorial to the 27,000 people killed instantly in Nagasaki and the tens of thousands who died later from burns and radiation sickness. Nearby is the rebuilt Catholic cathedral where a damaged wooden statue of Mary is a stark reminder of ‘the unspeakable horror suffered in the flesh by the victims of the bombing and their families,’ the Pope said.
We hunger for peace during Advent as we keep watch, vigilant and alert, yet in a mood of ‘devout and joyful expectation’. As we remember Christ’s first coming and await his second coming at the end of time, Jesus’ birth heralds his ongoing coming in our hearts through grace and the gift of peace for our world.