Well here we are! We have arrived at another New Year – the Church’s New Year which is the 1 Sunday of Advent. And we hear the familiar warning to “Stay Awake!” This time it is from St. Mark’s Gospel. This year more than any we have recently gone through, is a good time to reflect on staying awake. We know it’s has been a tough year in many ways. I am sure a number of people are wondering if God isn’t the one making us wake up, so to speak, by sending all these bad things into our lives. And so this idea of a God that uses punishment to get our attention, a God who causes us to fear Him, is still very much around. It has been for many centuries. But the Scriptures give us a totally different picture of our God. They present a God of infinite love and mercy, which we have little comprehension. St. John tells us that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear had to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4, 18). I do believe that Advent is a season which invites us to perfect our love for God by rooting our fear and for trusting how great His love is for us. St. Francis used to actually shed tears when he experienced how much God loves us; it was so powerful that Francis was overcome with emotion. So what can we do to live in less fear of God, and renew our trust in His mercy during Advent? Fr. Ronald Rolheiser gives us the following ten principles to help us live in less fear:
accept that God’s insight and understanding surpasses our own.
accept that God’s compassion and forgiveness surpasses our own.
accept that God respects nature, our human make-up, and our
innate desires and faults.
accept that God is a parent that blesses, and not threatens.
accept that God can handle our questions and doubts and angers.
accept that God reads our heart and can tell the difference between wound and malice.
accept that God gives us more than one chance, opening another door every time we close one.
accept that God desires our salvation and the salvation of our loved ones more than we do.
accept that God is the author of all that is good.
accept that God can, and does, descend into hell to help us.
If we could accomplish believing five of these ten principles, can you imagine what a joyful time of the year Advent would be! We call that having faith!!! ~ Fr. John