With Advent, we have begun a hope-filled time. Some questions arise: What do you hope for? Who do you place your hope in? Can you truly say, "All my hope is in Thee?" or have you divided your heart's hope with other things that are not our only Hope? It is time to do a review. Examine and act.
Perhaps in today's world and in this specific moment in history, we increasingly discover the need to correctly set the foundation of our hopes because, in the end, all that is finite will pass away.
Advent is a season to learn to place all our hope in God. Where and how can we learn to hope? There are places to learn and prepare for Christmas. One of them is prayer.
Prayer is a true school of hope. In prayer we see that when no one else listens to me and nothing and no one can help me, God listens. When I cannot speak to anyone, I can always speak to God. I will never be alone because God is always there. Prayer is the heart's cry to the only One who can give me hope. Several saints, who have gone before us, have experienced this. When trials come and when human hopes fall through, in prayer we discover the window that leads to a much greater hope. Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan was strengthened through prayer during his thirteen years of imprisonment and his hope increased to such an extent that, when he was set free, he became a light for many other people. His hope was not extinguished despite the dark night and loneliness he experienced. He teaches us to live this hope in our daily life through doing God’s will faithfully: “If you do not remain closely united to God’s will, you will fall moment by moment on your journey of hope. This will happen because your duty will seem devoid of novelty, too unobserved, hidden, and monotonous. The problem is simple: Before doing anything, you ought to think, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ (Acts 22:10). Do God’s will!”
In a homily on the First Letter of St. John, St. Augustine describes the connection between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness—for God Himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. St. Augustine says, “By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving Him].” Then he says to imagine that we are a vessel God wants to fill with his honey [His tenderness and goodness], but if we are full of vinegar, where will we put the honey? Yes, we must empty and purify ourselves of this vinegar, all that is alien to God, the world with its appetites, in order to fill ourselves with God. Prayer is a process of interior purification that makes us capable of God. It is in prayer and in the reading of His Word that we purify our desires and hopes. For prayer to be fruitful it must be personal prayer. You with God, and God with you. God is alive, He speaks to me, looks at me and listens to me. It seems obvious but we forget this so often!
A very good resolution for this Advent would be to spend some time each day in prayer. This can be done by reflecting on the readings at Mass for the day and asking the Holy Spirit to instruct you on them. The Word of God is alive and always has something to say to us. Besides meditating on some reading or mystery of Advent, it is a time for prayer of supplication: Come, Lord Jesus! If during this Advent we strive to keep this simple prayer always on our lips and in our hearts, we will see how it will increase our hope and desire for Him: Come, Lord Jesus! Come into my life and into my heart. Come in the midst of my work and my rest. Come to my family. Come to my home. Come, Lord! Enlighten my heart. Light the light of your truth in my heart, and be my only hope.
Let us pray to Our Lady who teaches us how to hope this Advent.