by Marlon Bobier Vargas SVD
As I lay in my bed late one night, I received an unexpected Facebook message from a good friend. When asked, he told me that he was “a bit tired, a bit perturbed, a bit sad.”
His message troubled me, so I stayed up to continue chatting with him. He shared with me how the upcoming Advent and Christmas seasons make him feel sad and angry. His mother’s only sibling, his aunt, died on Christmas Day four years ago.
Then two years later, his dear grandmother suffered a car accident. They thought she would survive to be with them for Christmas. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be and his family had to make the difficult decision to remove his grandmother’s ventilator on Dec. 24. She passed away on Christmas Eve.
At that moment, I wished I had a thousand words that would bridge the thousands of miles between us. I can’t imagine the amount of pain his family feels because of these two losses. I completely understand his saying bluntly that he was angry.
I wished at that moment that I could provide my physical presence. We were on different sides of the world. Whilst he was just beginning the day in the United States, I was ending mine in Spain. I looked out of my bedroom window and saw the shining stars in the night sky.
My friend is like one of the stars that sparkle in the dark sky. In spite of grappling with the emotions in his heart—emotions that make him want to give up—he strives to keep the light of hope. Many people struggle with their anger, resentment and loneliness. They desperately try to nurture a hopeful and joyful spirit and experience the meaning of Advent in their lives.
Social conflicts throughout our world are weakening the spirit of hope among us. Our desire for peace, unity, and love is robbed from us by terrible events everywhere.
In the news, we read about arrogance, hate, racism and discrimination. We see powerful nations tyrannize defenseless ones. We see national leaders who advocate the use of violence to solve their nations’ epidemic social ills.
Some nations are closing their borders to victims of injustice, survivors fleeing from wars. Many displaced people are taking risks to find new homes while political leaders debate how to deal with increasing arrivals of refugees and migrants.
Many immigrants died from starvation, sickness and drowning as they traveled the ocean. We see evil in our world. We cry out, asking ourselves how much we truly value human dignity. Chaos enslaves us. We are lost in darkness. We are getting tired of waiting, preparing and hoping for the coming of that day when all suffering will be over.
Yet, the Advent season can be a source of peculiar grace for which each of us longs. Like me, you probably have heard a friend’s painful story. The daily news we hear from around the world keeps us informed about the disturbing and heartbreaking anguish of our fellow human beings. The suffering we all experience in various ways connects us to each other.
It urges us to pause and reflect, making us realize that we should not obey the dictates of darkness in society. We all seek for a day when we are filled with faith, hope and love. We wait for that day. We prepare for that day. We hope for that day.
When we live out the spirit of waiting, preparing and hoping for that God-given desire, we recognize and receive the peculiar grace of the Advent season.
It is said that the stars are like beacons of hope for all the lost souls of the world. They enable us to be enlightened if we seek the spark of God’s infinite mercy and love.
When embraced in times of sufferings, the love of God keeps us whole. It preserves human dignity when the world tries to mangle it. The season of Advent makes us believe that in the midst of the world’s sinfulness—envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath—we can help to restore humanity if we allow the Spirit of the Lord to rest upon us.
When we accept the Lord, we realize that through the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, we are able to overcome the trials and hardships before us.
The same Holy Spirit that blessed Mary by calling her to be the bearer of the Savior of the world lets us all welcome God into our lives. By learning from God’s words, ways and instructions, we will be transformed. And when we are transformed, we transform our chaotic world into a dwelling place of hope, peace and love. Could all this be possible? Yes! For nothing is impossible for God.
Editor’s note: Divine Word seminarian Marlon Bobier Vargas writes from Spain, where he is fulfilling his overseas Cross-Cultural Training Program.