Waiting, watching, hoping

    December 5, 2023
    Advent reflection day 3 graphic. Watercolor brush strokes of Christmas tree branches in white and pale green and red holly berries.

    After some poor calendaring on my part earlier this year caused me to miss my Lenten reflection day altogether, I was excited to be given a second chance, to write for this Advent series. There was hope for me yet! Until I began writing about the wrong day’s readings — yesterday’s, instead of today’s. Sigh.

    Happily, today’s first reading, from Isaiah, includes some of my favorite Old Testament imagery and puts me in the Advent spirit of anticipatory waiting, watching, and yes, hoping. What sounds almost like a pastoral ideal, of lions lying down with lambs (or leopards with kids, per the lectionary), with a little child to guide them, gives me hope in a world that is too often devoid of it.

    Because in this first week of December, in the year of our Lord 2023, things are dark. War and suffering threaten to stomp out the sparks of light and love, and with them hope, as well. Yet Isaiah promises that with “a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, /A Spirit of counsel and of strength,” the Lord will “judge the poor with justice … [and] strike the ruthless.” In my times of greatest existential angst about the world, these words give me comfort, as does the certain knowledge that the work we do at Catholic Charities on behalf of the poor matters, and that our efforts to alleviate material poverty often enrich us spiritually.

    This life requires patient, hopeful waiting, and not just during Advent. Whether anticipating a more just world or the birth of the Christ child, as we wait it helps to be childlike rather than wise and learned, and to trust that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. As a dear friend and colleague at CCUSA recently told us, the Greeks have an expression that translates “Hope dies last.” This year, I hope that a babe in the manger might lead us — and, even more so, that we might follow.

    Julie Bourbon is Catholic Charities USA’s senior writer, which entails a lot of rewriting and editing. She’s been at CCUSA just shy of two years and, when not at work, watches classic movies, does a lot of crossword puzzles, and reads much too much of the news of the world.

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