In the Brotherhood, it has become a culture to have advent recollections as an annual reminder of the meaning of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We invite different speakers, most often priests, to conduct a half day Advent recollection. The messages vary from one of joyful celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ to one of hope of redemption. Still others speak of reconciliation and transformation that the Lord has made possible for each one of us. A variety of messages of hope, of possibilities, of joy and peace, of sacrificial love.
Sometimes we may ask “Hindi pa ba tayo nagsasawa sa Advent recollections?” How many times can you spin the story of the Lord’s coming and not get tired of it? I suppose the answer is we don’t because we keep on coming back and asking for more every year when December comes.
Allow me therefore to add my own take on the meaning of Advent.
The dictionary defines Advent as “the arrival that is awaited especially of something momentous”.
Indeed, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was a historic event that was eagerly awaited by the Jews. The coming of a Messiah was prophesied all over the old testament and God’s chosen people were filled with great expectation, with the hope of deliverance from their enemies. Unfortunately for the Jews, they never associated Jesus with their preconceived notion of what the Messiah should be. And so they missed his coming. Not only were they not looking, they in fact rejected him and cheered when Jesus was nailed to the cross. This was not the Messiah they were waiting for, they assured themselves. Even to this day, the Jews still await the Messiah.
Why did they miss out on the most important milestone in their history, one may ask? They witnessed his many miracles, listened to his teachings, applauded his knowledge of scriptures, and the depth of his wisdom, saw his acts of mercy to the dispossessed and the poor. Surely these were divine manifestations. As scriptures relate it of course, the Jews wore huge blinders. Worrying about the form rather than the substance, instead of appreciating those moments of Christ’s divinity, they instead were aghast at his many transgressions of the law especially during the Sabbath, his association with sinners, his blasphemous usurpation of God’s power to forgive sin. Surely, this man cannot be the Messiah.
The truth is we can be like the Pharisees many times over. The Lord visits us every day and we miss His coming. In spite of the blessings we enjoy from his bounty, we still fail to notice the times he passes by. And even if we do feel his presence, we do not do what he says. I hope that the Lord will not say when we meet Him at the gates of heaven “Why do you call me Lord, Lord but do not do what I say!” We are sinners. We remain intransigent, hard headed. We are therefore as Pharisaical as can be when it comes to our stubborn refusal to do the Lord’s will.
Advent is not a celebration of a historical event, remembered only during Christmas but actually a daily reality of the Lord’s presence in our lives. He does not come with trumpets blaring but rather, he comes most often in silence, other times thru whispers. It is therefore easy to miss Him if we are not alert.
In the movie “Dead Poet’s Society”, the lead actor Robin Williams made famous the one liner “Carpe Diem”. He encouraged his students to be bold and daring and seize the opportunity that presents itself. “Seize the day” he repeatedly advised his students. You miss it and you may regret it. An opportunity foregone may not come back again.
This is what Advent means to me, to seize the day for the Lord. It is advent time every day. The day is full of opportunities to show kindness, to be compassionate, to open our wallets and be generous, to control our feelings and be extra patient, to love deeply. To act on God’s word in very concrete ways daily is to seize the day for the Lord.
In the Brotherhood, we pride ourselves that we are a loving and caring community. Will it not even be more wonderful to reach out in love to others beyond the boundaries of our community. What better way to evangelize when we reflect the face of Jesus, gentle and kind, compassionate and loving, to others.
In closing, Fe and I wish all our brothers and sisters in BCBP a very blessed Christmas. May our Lord be present in your heart and spirit every day. Be alert, be attentive, be aware. It is Advent time, the Lord is coming!