Advent Holy Hour 2020 with Vespers (Evening Prayer II)
2nd Sunday of Advent
December 6, 2020
Our reading from Romans begins with Paul speaking of “the sufferings of this present time.” How has your year been? In what ways have you suffered?
Of course, there is the Coronavirus pandemic that has affected everyone in some way. However, there are other difficulties people face with or without the pandemic. Maybe you or someone know has been dealing with job issues. Maybe someone is facing a serious illness unrelated to the pandemic.
Dealing with suffering often requires patience. However, I am not a patient person.
Many people are familiar with the first four lines of the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” This can be a great prayer when we face suffering.
There are several more lines to the Serenity Prayer that are less known. The very next line is “living one day at a time.” Sometimes that is the most important thing we can do.
I remember 11 years ago when my mother was dying of emphysema and cancer. It was difficult time for me. I got through it.
How? The Serenity Prayer goes on to say to the Lord, “trusting that you will make all things right.” Our trust in God is essential. We find hope in knowing that the Lord is our help and our shield.
God will make things right. In a few minutes we will pray the Canticle of Mary. It is Mary’s response when she visits Elizabeth after learning they both are pregnant. She knows that the Lord “has looked with favor on his lowly servant” and has gone great things for her. She knows that the Lord will “cast down the mighty” and lift up “the lowly.”
There are better things to come. Going back to what Paul wrote to the Romans about suffering, the full sentence is, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”
God promises us the joy of Heaven.
This is our hope. It is what we wait for “with eager expectation.”
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent. Advent means “coming.” The season of Advent is all about the coming of the Lord, the first coming at Christmas and the Second Coming at the end of the ages.
Paul says, “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains.” It takes time to form a child. A child is not conceived one day and born the next. We have to wait but we need not wait in despair. We wait with hope, hope that comes from God (see “Reflecting on the Prayer of St. Francis”).
Think of the beginning of our processional hymn, “Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming, from tender stem hath Sprung! Of Jesse’s lineage coming.”
A rose begins as a seed. It takes time to grow into a rose bush and blossom. Jesus is the one who from comes from Jesse’s lineage (Jesse was David’s father). The Israelites waited a long time for Jesus to come. Yet, the Lord never abandoned them.
The Lord never abandons us. The Lord is always with us. The Lord is at our side in our sufferings. The Lord holds us in his arms as “we wait for adoption” into Heaven. We become adopted children of God at Baptism. Baptism begins our journey to eternal life.
Paul speaks of what is seen and unseen. Our sufferings are what we see in this world. What is unseen is what we will experience in Heaven. It is what gives us hope.
It is hope that comes from God.
It is with this hope that “we wait with endurance.”
On the back cover of your program, you will find two more passages from Romans that speak of hope. Romans 15:13 tells us that hope comes from the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:3-5 tells us that “hope does not disappoint.”
The stories of the Bible show us hope. How many times did God rescue his people from suffering? God rescues his people over and over. Ultimately, God rescues us from our sins as Jesus gives his life for us on the Cross. Jesus loves us so much that He willingly dies for us. The love He shows us gives us hope.
Hope is not something we earn. It is a gift to us. It is part of how the Lord comes to us even now.
I wish I could offer definitive answers as to how we deal with suffering. Sometimes we don’t even know “how to pray as we ought.”
I remember when my mother was dying. I did not say long prayers or ask God to do something spectacular. My prayer was literally, “God, please take care of her as you know best.” God did not cure her but He did take care of her and He took care of me too.
We are not meant to have all the answers. We are meant to have hope.
If you are familiar with the poem, “Footprints,” then you know how it describes the Lord always walking with us, even carrying us at times when we find it hard to know He is with us.
In a moment, we will continue Evening Prayer (Vespers). Then, we will sit in silence with Jesus present in the most Blessed Sacrament on the altar. You can pray however you like during the silence. If you are not sure what to do, you will find some suggestions in the program.
You might start with the first one, “Just be. Ask God for the grace to sit with him in the silence.” There is hope.