A TIME OF HEIGHTENED JOYFUL AND SPIRITUAL EXPECTANCY
- Venerable brothers in the Priesthood, my dear Deacons, my beloved Religious Men and Women and my treasured Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
- We are once again blessed with the Advent Season. Indeed, it is a period of grace, a time of expectancy; an occasion of sharing and an opportunity of spiritual renewal (cf. A. Banda, Advent Message, 2008).
- The birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ into the world signified a new era in human history. And in the Book of Revelations, Christ reminds us that: “Behold I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5). From this backdrop, the Church has always celebrated the preparation and birth of Jesus Christ during Advent when all God’s people are summoned to renewal. Therefore, Advent becomes a period of heightened joy and spiritual expectation of the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
- This period as it were brings to fulfilment the self-giving love of God to humanity and is a summons to reciprocate the gesture of love given and love received with one another. From such milieu, Advent becomes a time of hope to explore not only the divinity of God that has become human through the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ but also the love of God for humanity that has led Him to take up our human nature in the form of His Son [Cf. Philip. 2: 5 – 7], (also Cf. A. Banda, Advent Message, 2010). At the same time, Advent calls to mind the parousia – the second coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ at the end of time.
- This waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the parousia makes us vigilant, waiting and watching. Unlike the ‘vigilantes’ in the former regime who used there position to harass people and enrich themselves, the Christian virtue of vigilance is an abiding attitude of mind and heart which must guide our behaviour and life. It reminds us of our finiteness and the impending appearance of the Messiah. We need to be awake all the time in order to receive the Saviour. The attitude of vigilance consequently implores us to be of service to God and others at all time.
- It goes without saying that Advent Season becomes an occasion of deep and intensive reflection on our disposition towards one another and especially in the service of the poor, the neglected and the vulnerable (Ref. Mt. 25: 40). – There is enough genius and food and natural resources to resolve most of our societies’ challenges, but so often we do not care, and we are content to make sure our own needs and the needs of our own cliques and those of our families are met.
- Advent can as it were become a school in which we learn to feel responsible for one another as God’s children entrusted to each others’ care and an opportunity in which we learn to be the hands, the lips and the heart of Jesus, bringing His healing love into a world that hurts so much and sharing with those who have little – the gifts that God has loaned us so generously. By sharing with those who are hurting, we become the strongest proof that God exists.
- Ultimately, vigilance is the hunger and profound desire for God. The Psalmist depicts this healthy craving for God in terms of an avid and passionate thirst for God, the living God. He exclaims that:
“As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God? Day and night my tears have been my food…” (Ps. 42:2-4).
- Augustine discovered that our hearts will remain restless until they rest in God. The apparent absence of God in our lives creates a huge void and emptiness. And often than not we tend to fill the empty space of God with various means such as material possessions, excessive entertainment, drugs and alcohol abuse, etc. This way of life is simply a temporary escape from reality. Hence the sense of emptiness and spiritual aridity remains and even persists. It follows that all who feel disoriented, disorganised, disenchanted must look at Christ as the ideal.
- Blessed John Paul II of happy memories articulates this so well when he says:“In Christ you will discover the true greatness of your humanity. He will make you understand your own dignity, a human being created in the image and likeness of God. Christ has the answers to your questions and the key to history. He has power to uplift hearts. He keeps calling you; He keeps inviting you, who is ‘the way, and the truth and the life.’” (John Paul II, Address to the Youth, Galway, Ireland, September, 1979).I therefore implore all who are genuinely searching for the true meaning of life to look at the life of Jesus Christ. There is no situation Jesus cannot improve as no one is such a wretched sinner that they cannot be freed or redeemed by the Messiah.
- Advent is equally a season of hope. This is evidenced by the liturgy of this season which is a continuous Canticle of hope. Our attitude should imitate that of the early Christians who lived in joyful expectation of the return of the Messiah and Lord, Jesus Christ. The early Christians, through their spiritual attitude of joyful optimism, always used the prayer: “Come Lord Jesus” or “Marana tha.” (Ref. 1Cor. 16:23; Rev. 22:20)Nonetheless, today, the Church is much more conscious about her pilgrim nature and that her authentic hope lies in the future. She anticipates with hope the restoration of all things in Christ and a new heaven and a new earth; only then will she attain full perfection, (Cf. Eph. 1:10). Hope which is the spirit of Advent should animate our lives.
- Mindful of the so many challenges and threats of our present age, we agree that hope is not an easy virtue to practice. I think of the numerous economic, political and social crises which have a bearing on our lives. The incidences of disease, poverty, hunger, malnutrition, unemployment are wide spread. The threat of climate change, global warming and the depletion of natural resources are real. Humankind’s hope of a better world through science and technology as well as progress and civilization has been weakened. Moral values are on the decline while materialism, egoism, secularism, paganism are on the rise. This has consequently weakened and put to the test the virtue of Christian hope.
- Nonetheless, Christian hope is not based merely on human consideration or conditions but much more on Divine goodness and power. Despite human weakness, malice, failure, frailty and vice, God’s plan for the world is irreversible and will be carried forward notwithstanding the forces that oppose it. The foundation of the Divine plan is Jesus Christ; he is the power and wisdom of God who carries out His blueprints.
- Hence even in the times of darkness, adversity and uncertainty it is the Christian belief that moves us forward. While there are so many uncertainties in our life and in our country, they are also good signs as the entire outlook is not just bleak. The just ended generally peaceful elections may, for instance present an opportunity of hope for so many Zambians and especially the Youth who are seeking improvements in their economic and social life. A good number of people in our country wallow in squalor and live in wretched conditions. As a result they urgently need amelioration of their plight.
- The window of opportunity presented by the just ended tripartite elections need not, however, make us complacent as more needs to be done. This makes the involvement of Christians in the fashioning of a better world, a better Zambia even more compelling. We have a duty and responsibility to cooperate with God to mode a better world for that matter a better Zambia as we prepare for the parousia.
- We must not resign and fold our arms just waiting for the new world. Our commitment must be both to the city of God as well as the earthly city. The fact that we are pilgrims here on earth must not be an excuse not to get concerned in building a better Zambia.
- While we engage ourselves in building a better Zambia, we need a reservoir of spiritual and moral energy. There is need for the deepening of prayer-life, reading and meditating on the Scriptures among the Clergy, the Religious and the Lay Faithful. Making decisions at all levels: in our Church, in our Small Christian Communities, in our Families, at places of work, in the government etc. must be preceded by genuine prayer and reflection. It is divine work and not solely ours.
- I wish you a prayerful Season of preparation for the birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Our King of Peace and Hope. May I impart the Apostolic Blessing on all of you and all those with whom you share this Advent Message.
Given this in Ndola, at the Cathedral of Christ the King, on 20th November,the Solemnity of Christ the King, in the year of Our Lord, 2011
+Dr. Alick Banda
Bishop of Ndola