Advent in the pandemic: an invitation to wait, hope and work

Fr Leonard E Dollentas

Advent means “coming.” Our Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that there are three comings of Christ.

The first is the coming of Christ in history which is also called the mystery of Incarnation. This coming happened more than 2,000 years ago when the Word was made flesh in the womb of the Blessed Mother.

The second is the coming Christ that is happening continuously. It is the coming that is realized in the here and now. Through the visible sign of the sacraments, where Christ is truly present among his people and comes regularly when we receive Him in Holy Communion, when we approach him in the sacrament of reconciliation and through the other sacraments.

The third one will happen in the end times when Christ comes as a judge to render final judgment to all humanity. The apocalyptic character in this coming was presented in the Gospels before the Advent season enters. This is the Parousia, Christ coming in majesty. 

The two comings of Jesus that the Church anchors herself on during this season are Christ’s Incarnation and his second coming. When we beseech Emmanuel to come, we are not just reliving the ancient Israelites’ longing for the awaited Messiah. We are also awaiting his victorious return and renewing of the universe. But to be completely honest, waiting for Christ in a year where we are currently waiting out death, disease, despair – with the new COVID variant – seems pointless. Waiting is disheartening because it requires trust. God understands that waiting is not easy, and this is why we have Advent, where we learn how to wait meaningfully and with hope. With all that is happening in our lives today, we will realize that perhaps waiting is an invitation to desire more for God’s presence.

If we have been waiting impatiently in the long line to take the required nucleic acid test recently, the process has exposed our inability to calm ourselves, to be patient. It has exposed our selfishness and our idols of comfort and convenience. Similarly, waiting during the pandemic has exposed our dislike of uncertainty because it diminishes our sense of control. The root of most sin comes down to pride – I want it my way.

In the Confiteor (I Confess), the part of the introductory prayers recited at every Mass, we express our general confession of one’s sins. We confess that we have greatly sinned in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done and in what we have failed to do. Haven’t we realized that waiting out the pandemic has exposed how we’ve neglected to nurture and enrich our relationships with our friends and family because we’ve been using our busyness on personal concerns as an excuse? We didn’t even realize this until we were faced with a season of waiting.

As Advent widens our windows of waiting, the journey leads us to the desire for God’s grace so we may make progress with our inadequacies, bad habits, and sins.

The ultimate fulfilment of our waiting is God with us: Emmanuel. He is with us now, but during Advent, we look forward to the day where we will be complete with Him. We don’t have to incessantly question when this year’s trials, including the COVID 19 pandemic will end, because we have complete trust and certainty in God’s ultimate coming. (Photo Credits: Paola Lim- Life Philippines)