Advent2-2015READINGS: Second week of Advent

What does God want? Advent reminds us that God has great dreams — for people, for nations, for all creatures, for Earth itself. In the Advent Scripture readings we find powerful images of the desires of God’s heart.

First, God longs for justice and peace. “Justice shall flourish in God’s time, and fullness of peace forever.” (Ps. 72) What does this look like? Isaiah describes a realm where even natural enemies live in peace: “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and…the calf and young lion shall browse together.” (Is. 11:6-8) Pure fantasy? Impossible dream? I remember the story of James, a homeless man living in Boston, who found a knapsack with over $40,000 in it. He brought it to the police, saying, “I don’t need it. I live in a good shelter with 3 meals a day. I have all I need.” Amazed, the officer asked him, “Isn’t there anything we can do for you?” Without hesitation, James told them his greatest wish: “No more war.” James’ desire echoed God’s own: follow the way of justice, and peace will flourish.

Second, God is passionate about caring for those in need. Our God, we hear, is one who shall “rescue the poor when they cry out, and the afflicted when they have no one to help them.” (Ps. 72) In his day St. Vincent de Paul worried, “What will become of the poor and where will they find bread? I confess that this is a weight on my mind and source of great grief.”

In our day, more than 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

In New York City alone, the number of homeless people sleeping each night in municipal shelters is now 85% higher than ten years ago. That translates into almost 62,000 persons, including more than 24,000 children. Surely God longs for these brothers and sisters of ours, far and near, to find a home, a shelter.

As Pope Francis reminds us, God also desires unity and communion in all creation, and care for Earth, our common home.

Pure fantasy? Impossible dream? Not if we believe the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you….for nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke1: 35-37) Not if we understand Jesus’ response to the followers of John the Baptist, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5) 

God is indeed at work where people of good will and compassionate hearts reach out to help others. Pure fantasy? Impossible dream? Not if we believe that we have already received the greatest gift possible in Jesus the Christ, one of us, one like us, the sign and pledge of God’s own ever-present bending down to us.

Christ calls you and me to believe what seems impossible, and to pray and work each day, with the power of his Spirit, to make his impossible dream possible.

May the deep desires of God’s heart – for justice, peace, care for the poor and hungry, unity and communion – find a home in our hearts this Christmas and throughout the year to come!

Regina Bechtle

Sr-Regina-BSr. Regina serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York. A retreat leader and spiritual director, she gives presentations to lay and religious groups about St. Elizabeth Seton and our Vincentian-Charity heritage of spirituality.