Advent Reflection: Hope

Hope is the virtue of the “not yet.” We each have received by grace faith in God and in His Son, Jesus, and in all that has been revealed to us by Him. God, in having revealed his promise of everlasting life and happiness with Him through His son Jesus, we now hope toward that ultimate goal.

It is through the gift of the Spirit that we are able to see what our faith tells us is true and what we hope to possess. Through the Spirit we are able to see and experience a foretaste of life with God.

In this way, what we hope for is already present with us, though it is also not yet fully. Hope therefore strengthens us when the path is dark and enables us to see what we believe as true dwelling in our midst when dark times overshadow us, and it finally leads us to our ultimate happiness, life with God.

Blessed Advent!

Brother Nicholas Reynolds, OP

Advent Reflection – Faith

Advent Reflection – Faith

Advent as many of you know is a time of preparation. These weeks of Advent focus on the coming of Christ, not only do we prepare to welcome Christ this Christmas in the mystery of his incarnation, we are also preparing for Christ’s second coming, and more than that we are preparing to welcome Christ in our hearts.

Advent is a time to deepen our faith, to help us grow in our trust, in our confidence that Christ’s presence is always among us and confidence that Christ’s coming will bring a new rule in our lives. Our faith helps prepare in our lives a fitting dwelling place for Christ’s Spirit. Faith lays the groundwork upon which our lives are shaped.

For this reason, I want to begin this Advent Reflection with a focus on faith.

Now, without getting into something too philosophical, I think it is necessary to lay some groundwork.

When I speak of Faith, what are some words that come to mind? Some words that come to mind are belief, trust, or maybe even confidence.

First and foremost faith is a gift of God. It is one of the supernatural virtues, meaning it is a virtue that can’t be acquired by our own strength. We cannot exercise faith without the help of God. Before we can ever truly believe something divinely revealed as true, we need God’s grace.

Now I want to do a little exercise with you to help illustrate this. [Let’s say I give the person next to you a coin. You don’t see what I gave the person at all. It could be any coin. Now, I’m going to ask you a question to see if you believe me. “I just gave the person next to you a quarter, do you believe me?” When I first did this exercise, She said that she didn’t believe me. When I asked why, she said because it didn’t sound like a quarter, after the coin fell to the ground. Then I asked is it at least plausible or believable that it could have been a quarter. She said yes, but she couldn’t be certain about it.

Faith requires both certainty (a firm assent) and not being able to know something in a way like I know the world around me, through observation.

As you noticed in the exercise, that there is no certain proof that what I gave was a quarter. Sure it’s reasonable. It sounds very likely, but can we say yes with certainty? There is something missing that is important in faith.

A definition of Faith by the Catechism is: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.”

When it comes to faith, there is a limit to what our minds can do. This is not the same as science as when I can observe a measurement and come to know about something through observation. When it comes to divinely revealed things, we can only deliberate. We can doubt. We can be inclined toward one side or another. It is another step to believe, to believe something as true, not just inclined toward truth. It requires something crucial, other than the content that is to be believed. It requires a relationship. It requires belief in someone who is revealing a truth.

One of the reasons I wasn’t believed during the exercise is because there was not a relationship between us.

For example, we are more likely to trust a close friend and what he or she says than a complete stranger.

Or For example, little children firmly accept what their mom says. Children have a profound trust in their parents. Yet, even though their trust is absolute, it truly isn’t faith yet. It’s certainly a start, but it is immature. Faith requires also the use of our intellect. God gave us each minds capable of grasping the world around us. However, this example of children’s faith in their parents shows the importance and the role of relationship in belief.

Now here is a crucial question: How is our faith born? How does it grow?

This is taken from Lumen Fidei. “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. ”

Love is always the starting point. This is interesting because we are going to end this series with love. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with Thomas Aquinas or Neoplatonic philosophy, but in this system: everything begins in God and returns to God. So here too: Everything begins in love and returns to love.

It is in encountering the Living God in our own lives that we come to know His love for us. It is through this love, that we come to desire the Goodness of God. St. John tells us that we love because he first loved us. It is in having been loved first that we return love. It is encountering the Love of God that we come to know the Goodness of God and that he is to be trusted.

It is the through the gift of a relationship, that bond of love between humanity and God that we can come to believe in all that has been revealed. It is through an encounter with the living God that we understand that God, who is the source of every Good, is the object of our desire.

When we make an act of faith, what compels us to believe is not the evidence or that the content that is to be believed is reasonable or understandable, it is the very thing we desire and love that drives us and compels us to believe. It is God. It is through the gift of love that we freely will to accept and affirm all that has been revealed to us by God, and our intellect, comes to accept that what God has said as certain and true.

We believe because we desire for communion in the very Being whom we love. We believe because we desire to participate in the knowledge of God. Simply put… We believe because we want to. We believe because we love.

Advent is the perfect time to encounter and re-encounter the Living God in our lives, to come to know and love God and to renew our faith in him. There is nothing old when we encounter God in our lives, it is always new and refreshing. In encountering God, it is like falling in love for the first time.

Whenever we are at Mass we encounter the Living God in the Eucharist. Whenever we read Scripture, we encounter God in His Word. Wherever there is Mercy, wherever there is justice, wherever there is healing, wherever there is joy, there is presence of the Living God, because mercy, justice, and our joy is a participation in God’s mercy, justice, and joy. Wherever there is anything good, there is the presence of the Living God, because all that is good participates in God’s goodness. Wherever there is anything that exists, there is the presence of the Living God.

Advent is all about Christ’s coming. It’s more than just preparing for his second coming or celebrating his first coming, it’s about preparing for Christ a dwelling place within our lives. It’s about making room for God within our souls, encountering Christ. It’s about turning our will toward God, turning our will to the One who loved us first that we may grow more in confident trust of his promises to us.

Let us take time this Advent to encounter God, so that we may increase our faith in God. Take some time to come to daily Mass or go to adoration. Take some time this season to encounter the Scriptures. Take some time to pray with your families. Take some time to spend time with your friends and family. Take some time to encounter the Living God in the homeless, the poor, those who are most forgotten.

May this Season of Advent be an encounter with Christ, that Christ may give us the gift of faith. May he show us that what we truly desire is him alone, and may we cling to him with faith in all he will do for us.

This concludes this week’s reflection on Faith. Next Week on Dec 5, there will be a reflection on Hope. May God Bless you this week.

Contributed by Br. Nicholas Reynolds, OP

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