Bishop Richard Umbers: With Him, nothing can defeat us

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What is it that you want? What is it that you ultimately want – above all else? What captivates you? What do you yearn for?

In what do I place my hope? In who do I place my hope?

As we journey through this season of Advent, liturgically we observe the colour of violet (or purple), a colour specific to Lent and Advent, both times of penance and preparation. In Advent, particularly, I am always struck by the reminder and realisation of what it means to hope, to pause and reflect on where my hope actually lies, and what it is I truly hope for.

Advent is a time of anticipation and preparation for celebrating the birth of our Saviour, while also preparing our hearts for His Second Coming. It is a time to pause and reflect on the state of our soul and the disposition of our heart for the time when the Lord will call us to Himself.

Each Sunday of Advent we are reminded, again and again, to “stay awake” (Mt 24:42), “prepare” (Mt 3:3), “wait” (Mt 11:2), and to “not be afraid” (Mt 1:20). Throughout this season we follow and accompany the prophesying of the prophet Isaiah, the heralding of John the Baptist, and the deep faithfulness of St Joseph.

The Mass Readings chosen for these days – and for every day of the liturgical year – are not coincidental: they are given to us, again and again, year after year, to demonstrate the very tangible faithfulness and love of God from the beginning of time to our present day, as we read the Old and New Testaments in light of one another.

And they speak of so much hope – an anticipatory hope promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; an expectant hope foretold by the Old Testament prophets and kings; and a fulfilling hope steeped in great wonder, promise, trust and surrender to the Will of God through the New Testament figures of Mary and Joseph.

What did the people of Israel hope for?
What do we as Christians hope for?

Our entire history as the People of God has been marked by and driven by hope. Hope that the promises made by the Lord would be fulfilled (Lk 1:45), a hope that when we would go through deep waters the Lord would always be there with us (Is 43:2), a hope that one day a Messiah would appear among us, a hope that the Holy Spirit would come (Acts 1:8), a hope that the Lord will return and wipe away every tear from our eyes (Is 25:8; Rev 7:17, 21:4).

All of this anticipation for that which is promised – for the Lord to work marvels in our lives – is memorialised throughout the Advent season. And we are, in turn, reminded of the great hope to which we are called: to have confidence in the faithfulness of God who will fulfil His promises.

As St John Paul II once said in an Angelus address during this liturgical season: “Advent is synonymous with hope: not the vain waiting for a faceless god, but concrete and certain trust in the return of Him who has already visited us, of the ‘Spouse’ who with His blood has sealed with humanity a pact that is an eternal covenant. It is a hope that stimulates vigilance, the characteristic virtue of this special liturgical season.

Vigilance in prayer, fostered by a loving expectation; vigilance in the dynamics of concrete charity, aware that the Kingdom of God comes close whenever men learn to live as brothers.”

Where does Christ fit into what we hope for? Do we hope for Heaven? Do we desire to be present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Do we yearn to grow and develop in the spiritual life? Do we want what is good, true and beautiful? Do we desire that which is good for all those God has placed in our lives?

We need to ask ourselves: Am I vigilant in prayer? Do I live with an expectant heart to receive Christ in the Eucharist? How can I prepare myself to welcome the Lord at Christmas? And can I hope with the same confidence of St Joseph who chose trust over fear and discouragement?

As we draw closer to the end of Advent, let’s turn our hearts and minds to the Giver of all good things, for when our hope is in Him alone, nothing can prevail against us. He is the Light in the darkness, the Strength of the afflicted and our great Hope and Salvation.

May the Christ-child bring great peace, hope and joy to you this Christmas season.