Things have caught up with me this week and so I write this post about last week’s Adult Advent group on the verge of going into the next one! I hope I remember the discussion correctly.
There was a similar feel to the first week’s discussion. The session on faith gave us the sense of God’s expansive and vast invitation to humanity but also the awareness that we don’t always respond to that invitation. Things get in the way.
This week, with the theme of hope had tensions too. We began by hearing the Old Testament and Gospel readings for the Second Sunday in Advent.
In the Old Testament reading these lines jumped out:
for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory
with his mercy and integrity for escort.
There is a sense of protection in these words, God himself being around his people and bringing his mercy and intergrity. Here are echos from last week, that expansive feeling, this week tied up in God’s limitless mercy.
Also from this reading there is the line:
Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights
And turn your eyes to the east.
East of Jerusalem is where the sun rises. Imagine yourself on one of the mountain tops spoken of here and in the Gospel. Look towards the east and see the colour of the sky change as the sun rises. Hope contains in it both elements we noticed in the readings. We have hope for now, surrounded by God’s mercy and hope for the far off, for the future. We have a vision, which is to be fulfilled far in the distance. We can see it, there on the horizon. This is what Karlie describes as the “now and the not-yet” of hope. Two strands which are linked by our longing for God, here and now and also far off in the future. Both are hope.
These strands were also picked up in the second part of the evening in the quotes from Blessed John Paul II. In pairs we looked at different quotes and then talked about them with the rest of the group.
One quote said:
The basic attitude of hope encourages the Christian not to lose sight of the final goal which gives meaning and value to life, and on the other, offers solid and profound reasons for daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to God’s plan”
Our final goal, the sun on the horizon and transformation of reality now, with God there, protecting us with his mercy- both are there in hope. Another quote talked about Mary. During her pregnancy, in bringing Jesus up and seeing him on the Cross of Calvary all contain elements of the near and far off aspects of hope.
It was in this discussion that some of the tensions became apparent. Blessed John Paul II names some signs of hope in the world, in the Church. However they are signs that proved controversial in our group. Areas of Science, environment, technology all offered hope but equally can be signs of despair. The same with sign in the Church. How much do individuals, of all vocations, pay attention to the Holy Spirit. How often do we see arguments and bad behaviour or apathy or secular thinking effect how open individuals are to the movement of the Spirit? As another quote says we feel “that the forces of evil, in many manifestations of social life, have got the upper hand…”
What, I think we experienced a bit last week is two fold: the despair that comes when we have encountered sin and the destruction it brings; and the hope which our encounter with a merciful God brings. Hope is for now and for the future. The YouCat quote, which we used to plan the Children’s talk and which the adults were given at the end describes hope like this:
What is hope?
Hope is the power by which we firmly and constantly long for what we were placed on Earth to do: to praise God and to serve him; and for our true happiness, which is finding our fulfilment in God; and for our final home: in God
Hope is trusting in what God has promised us in creation, in the prophets, but especially in Jesus Christ, even though we do not yet see it. God’s Holy Spirit is given to us so that we can patiently hope for the Truth.
In the longing, the transforming, the gazing to the horizon we find tensions and there are tensions when we who are called to develop the virtue of hope, live in a fallen and broken world when we might feel that evil has the upper hand. Yet, in our hope, God is present and he can begin the process of bringing us back home.