By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In his homily at Vespers in the Vatican Basilica last evening, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the faithful to use the season of Advent to slow down, live more in the present moment and experience the presence of God in the everyday events of our lives.
“In daily life we all know the experience of having little time for the Lord, and little time for ourselves,” the pope said. “We end up becoming absorbed by ‘doing.’ Is it not often true that it is activity itself that possesses us, society with its multiple distractions that monopolises our attention? Is it not true that we dedicate a lot of time to entertainment and leisure activities of various kinds?”
Advent is a potent liturgical period, he said, and one that “invites us to remain silent as we come to appreciate a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are signs God addresses to us, signs of the care He has for each of us. How often does God make us aware of some aspect of His love! To maintain what we might call an ‘inner diary’ of this love would be a beautiful and rewarding task in our lives. Advent invites us and encourages us to contemplate the living Lord. Should not the certainty of His presence help us to see the world with different eyes?”
Another fundamental aspect of Advent is that of waiting, the pope said, “a wait that is, at the same time, a hope. … Hope marks the journey of humankind, but for Christians it is enlivened by a certainty: the Lord is present in the events of our lives, He accompanies us and will one day dry our tears.”
But there are many different ways to wait, he said. “If the present time is not filled with meaning, the wait risks becoming unbearable. If we await something, but at this moment have nothing – in other words, if the present is empty – then every passing instant seems exaggeratedly long and the wait becomes an over-heavy burden because the future remains too uncertain.”
On the other hand, time has meaning when we perceive in every instant something “specific and valid.” Then the joy of waiting makes the present moment richer, he said.
The Holy Father encouraged the faithful “intensely to live the present, where we already obtain the gifts of the Lord. Let us live projected towards the future, a future charged with hope.”
We must be alert for the Messiah who is present among us and speaks to us in a variety of ways, such as in Sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in all creation, “which changes its appearance depending upon whether [we see Him] behind it or whether [we see it] shrouded in the fog of an uncertain origin and uncertain future.”
He concluded: “We in our turn can address Him, present Him the sufferings that afflict us, the impatience and the questions that arise in our hearts. We are certain that He always listens to us! And if Jesus is present, then there can be no meaningless or empty time. If He is present we can continue to hope, even when others can no longer offer us their support, even when the present becomes burdensome.”
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