The Joy of Love Given and Received – 4th Sunday
For the Advent posts this year, I am focusing on the themes presented by Fathers John Pungente, SJ and Monty Williams, SJ, in their new book Advent Goes to the Movies – Finding God through film (2021, from Novalis). They offer themes for each of the four weeks of Advent and use four films (including family-friendly options) to develop each theme. The authors use very relatable films and offer a series of reflection questions. The reflection questions aim to show how the film is an entry point into Advent themes.
This final Sunday of Advent focuses on the joy of love given and received. The authors suggest that Advent calls forth the child within each of us and reminds us of our longing. I know that I can never retrieve my Christmases of childhood. But there are times when I find that longing somewhere within – a longing for innocence, a longing for a return to my idyllic childhood. Perhaps it is best expressed as joy. We are all too well-aware of how the world of business and mass media can exploit that longing. And the longing is somewhat naïve. Too much has changed in the world and in our personal lives.
Do we have to find a way to let the longing be transformed? The path to that transformation is rooted in the innocent baby born in Bethlehem. Pungente and Williams suggest that what Advent prepares us for is a journey. They say that this journey has to be taken with that baby, the one who has become human like us. We are invited to companionship, to an intimate knowledge of the one who is born in our hearts every time we live the vulnerability of being human. They conclude that our journey back to the Father starts with Advent. In celebrating Advent we are on our way!
The joy we are invited to is that which is expressed in today’s Gospel: the joy of John the Baptist while still in the womb of Elizabeth. That joy is beyond mere happiness. It is the conviction that God is with us, despite the real circumstances in which we find ourselves.
The book offers two helpful questions for our reflection as we approach the end of this season: (1) How do you experience your life journey moving with God and back to God? (2) What are the Advent moments in your life? My final offering for the season is a quote from Saint Oscar Romero. He wrote beautiful pastoral letters when he was Archbishop of San Salvador. One letter includes a quote for Christmas.
No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God – for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.