December 1, 2019: The First Sunday of Advent - Pastor’s Corner
The Marin Headlands is one of my favorite places to explore in precious moments of recreation. Towards the top of list of things I enjoy on such adventures is the Marine Mammal Center. Located on the former Nike Missal Site which the Army founded in the 1950s in order to protect the coast from Soviet threat, the Marine Mammal Center provides ecological support to the area both as hospital to care for wounded or abandoned marine mammals and as a place of environmental research and education. I often like to visit the Center to observe the seals, sea lions, elephant seals, sea otters, and other “patients” as they feed and play in their time of convalescence. In the past 40 years, over 20,000 marine mammals that have been rescued and returned to their natural environs. I’ll never forget the first time I visited the Center. As I approached the entrance, I noticed a handsome dedication plaque which greets the visitor. Framing the biography of commemoration, the plaque articulates vision for the Center taken from the words of the prophet Isaiah: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isaiah 2:4) From the vestiges of a decommissioned Missal site, the Marine Mammal Center understands its mission as a particularly poignant example of Isaiah’s prophetic words.
As we begin the season of Advent, we hear these prophetic words of Isaiah in our first reading. Since prophecy is not simply the telling of the future, but rather the communication of God’s word, Isaiah’s words are a promise from God himself. Although humanity is awash in violence, strife and bloodshed, God promises that he will bring peace, restoration, and healing. The very instruments of destruction will be changed into tools of transformation. Weapons of hate will be reengineered to harvest the fruits of peace. This is the promise of Advent. God is coming to restore his order. He is coming to root out violence and war. He is coming as the Prince of Peace.
For this Advent promise to make a different for us, we need to be prepared. In the Gospel, Jesus says: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Matthew 24:42-44) Christ is coming, but if we want our hearts to experience the healing peace and tranquilly he brings, we have to prepare to receive Him.
I suggest three practical ways that we might open our hearts to receive the promise of Advent. First, pick up an Advent reflection booklet after Mass, or in the office. This year, we are providing Advent meditations from the little “blue books.” Amid the hustle and bustle of this busy time, spending five minutes daily in Advent prayers will do wonders for preparing ourselves for Christ. Second, enter into the fullness of the season by attending one of our events at the parish. For example, next Saturday December 7th, Br Matthew will lead morning retreat which focus on Angels in our spiritual lives. Just as the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary to initiate the Incarnation through the power of the Holy Spirit, so too we can avail ourselves of our heavenly guides to prepare to welcome the presence of Jesus. Third, be an “angel” and take an Advent “ornament” from our giving tree. Many of us are blessed with ample material resources, and yet there is need around us. This year at Thanksgiving, through your generosity, we were able to provide a delicious meal for almost 300 families. Most of these families have children and we confident that our gift card angel ornaments will be able to provide gifts for those who would otherwise go without. Whenever we give to those in need, we encounter the living presence of Jesus. May Jesus’ Advent find us ready to receive His promised Peace into our hearts!
~ Fr. Michael