My favorite scene from the movie, The Lord of the Rings by devout Catholic JRR Tolkien, depicts a young lad, desperate from arrows flying in the dark of night, lamenting an apparent loss in battle, “It is hopeless.” King Aragorn steadies the boy by looking him straight in the eye while declaring, “There is always hope. Look to the east!”
In the season of Advent, as we approach the shortest day of the year, darkness seems to engulf the world. Stories abound on terrorism, the plight of refugees, drug epidemics, gun violence, suicide, human trafficking, poverty, and sold body parts. The more we read and watch, the more we shake our heads and lament, “It all seems hopeless.” Consumed with worry as children drown in addiction, are caught in abuse, wallow in mediocrity, or dismiss the faith, many parents cry inwardly, “It is just hopeless.”
This Sunday’s readings center on hope—looking to the East—where the sun rises and Christ will return in glory. Baruch, scribe to the prophet Jeremiah, exhorts God’s people, led away by their enemies and exiled in Babylon, to take hope and have courage for they are “remembered by God” who “will bring them back.”
God remembers his loved ones and will bring them home! No matter how violent the world, the Lord God remembers our faithfulness. No matter how far away our children, the Lord God will bring them back! When reflecting on darkness, Rev. Ronald Rolheiser commented, “Even when a son or daughter is unable to hold onto hope, Jesus continues to hold onto them.” There is no exile too remote or distance too far for Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to seek and bring home his beloved children.
As parents and grandparents, we steady our children by turning them toward Christ, our light—our hope. We name grace each time we offer encouragement when threatened by darkness: “God has a future filled with hope for you!” We name grace as we light an Advent candle and recall God’s promises: “Today was really tough, but God is always with us.” We name grace as we hug tightly, hold closely, and whisper gently: “Jesus loves you; all shall be well.” We name grace each time we gather to celebrate life, whether at a funeral Mass or the Christmas table.
With Advent, we affirm hope because “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). The battle has been won, not with weapons or violence, but through Jesus Christ—the Prince of Peace. As Christians, we refuse to despair—no matter how dark the world or how far away our children—for God will not abandon us. God will make straight the winding roads and smooth the rough ways. Never, ever, give up. There is always hope. Look to the east! Now, that’s good news!
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.