First Sunday in Advent: Gospel - Lk 21:25-28,34-36
“Advent” – A Life-Changing Season of Grace

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of Our Lady of Lourdes - Singapore
on 29 November 2015

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today we gather to celebrate the “First Sunday of Advent.”  We begin to feel and sense the joy of Christmas, when we hear hymns like, “O Come Divine Messiah” or “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.  “Advent” in Latin means “Coming”.  While our hearts are filled with the anticipation of the Joyful Season of the Coming of Christ at Christmas, /today’s Gospel of St Luke that we just heard proclaimed reminds us that there is also another “Coming.”  This is the “Second Coming of Christ, the Son of God at the end of the world where our entire world will come to an end.  As such, we can see why Jesus in today’s Gospel strongly reminds us, His followers and disciples to be vigilant in the way we live our lives daily.  But, what does this mean? 

Stacy Trasancos is career woman with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Pennslyvania State University and a M.A. in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary, amongst other prestigious position in her career, Stacy has this to share about herself.

She says, “I was a horrible mother and I knew it. I didn’t have any time to raise my little daughter, Clare (not her real name).  This was because I could not entertain the idea of giving up my career… I still remember the look of sadness on my daughter, Clare’s face as I ignored her day after day after day.  I was too busy chasing an appearance so I could feel loved when real love was staring at me every day through two big hazel eyes.”

Imagine my little daughter, Clare growing up with such an absent mother.  Clare watches me, her mother climb mountains and chase dreams, buy her everything and appear successful, but all that Clare is really looking for is to know that she matters, that she is loved, and that she can make people smile.  Instead of being raised, Clare is dropped off at day care and propped in front of a television, moved like furniture from one place to another, and given stuff to keep her quiet.

Like the stark objective truth is that Clare needs her parents just like any child does, but she’s got a broken family, and Mom’s pretty messed-up.  As Mom goes her own way, Clare subconsciously nurses that pain with excuses, and goes on with her life too.

To make things worse, everyone acts like the life she leads is normal. Mom appears successful, school for Clare is going well, and there are lots of activities and friends.  Clare’s life is like icing on a rotten cake.  Sometimes a neighbour or a relative does the unthinkable – they embrace her with a hug that speaks to her frightened heart – Clare melts and the painful truth is overwhelming.

And then Mom gets married.

She changes her ways too suddenly.  Mom says this man really loves her and she really loves him, whatever that means.  So, Clare, now an adolescent tries to do what is expected of her. New family?  A New home?  A New routine?

The confusion turned to rage; a child-like Clare can only take so much.  Life for Clare was madness.  Well, she could either run with the demons and jump off the nearest cliff or she could build an impenetrable wall around herself.

Then Mom said the family is going to be Catholic. Whatever that means.

As Mom, now a Catholic, continued to change and when a little sister after another little sister is added to the family, Clare felt even more like she didn’t belong. On the brink of womanhood, she decided on her 17th birthday that it was time to take matters into her own hands.  She ran away from home. Clare looked so bold, but inside she was on her knees begging for love.

In all of these, meanwhile, Clare never knew what was happening to her mom, Stacy.  Upon Stacy’s conversion to Catholicism she had come to realise what a horrible mother she had been to Clare.  Stacy would day after day sit frozen in the school parking lot reliving all the missed opportunities to embrace her and her inability to admit the truth of having taken Clare for granted for so long.  Stacy had come to realise that a mother could convert and straighten out her life, but the damage that is done to the child entrusted to her care cannot be undone.

It’s one thing to forgive yourself, it’s another to realize that you absolutely cannot forget what you did, and then to face it.  It was now the mother’s turn to suffer as she watched her daughter go her own way without her. All the regret in the world doesn’t make it possible to re-raise a child.

Being a convert, all that Stacy could do as a mother was to breathe in the graces that are offered by God and trust that God loves her daughter even more than she does, and hope that now with some clarity about life, one day, her beautiful grown daughter, who has a deeply wounded heart would still return home.  And Stacy shares that, “If her deep desires and dreams are to be fulfilled, then Clare, her dear daughter can be assured that she’ll finally have a mother waiting strongly, patiently, and lovingly to help her discover the deep love that she had longed for, but have never experienced.  After all, God who had brought her so far will surely not abandon her daughter.  When we realize we can’t change the past, it’s time to acknowledge that life is everlasting and surrender the future to the eternally merciful Father.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, does the story of Stacy and Clare strike a cord in our experiences? In different ways, the life of regret and sorrow of Stacy and the deep woundedness of Clare do reflect the sorry state of many relationships that we find in families; especially those of our families who are too absorbed in the busy and hectic living of the complex demands and influences of the secular world in which we live daily.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus dramatically cautions us that every single person in this world will one day die and will be judge by God, definitively, once and for all.  In other words, we will either be called to join the saints in heaven for ever or be cast into the pit of the darkness of the demons where our suffering and pain will never end.

It seems obvious to all of us that without exception, we all would wish to hear God calling us to join Him and all the saints in heaven and live in the eternal happiness and glory that God wants to give us.  If this is true of us, then a question which you and I need to ask ourselves is, “How serious are we in wanting this eternal happiness?”   If our personal answer is a resounding and committed “Yes,” then we will as from today, look forward to the coming Four weeks of the “Advent season” that helps us experience a conversion of hearts that will joyfully urge us to live a more vigilant faith. 

So, let me conclude by reminding ourselves that, if our Advent season is going to be life changing, then many of us would need to face the truth, and ask ourselves, “Are we going to be like Stacy who is too caught up with chasing the materialistic and secular dreams of our lives, at the expense of sacrificing the peace, love and joy that God wants to give each of our families during this Advent season? OR are we too deeply hurt and wounded like Clare to allow God’s Compassionate Love to heal us and urge us to return to our families and seek the needed reconciliation of relationships that will bring us the hope, peace, love and joy of God of this Advent season?  

But, if we are blessed to be already living our faith with much hope, peace, joy and love of God, then we need to continue to deepen our love for Jesus during this Advent and never take God’s abundant blessings for granted.  Whatever state of spiritual lives we may be in, God truly wants each of us to experience the abundant graces of hope, peace, joy and love of the Advent season.  Do we truly want such graces and blessings from God?  

(Reference: Adapted from: Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, churchvisits.com.

Adapted from Stacy Trasancos – facebook)

Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.

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