Sponsored in memory of Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Ita Ford and Dorothy Kazel, who were martyred in El Salvador on December 2, 1980.
Today we enter the Advent Season, a time of waiting in joyful hope for the coming of Our Savior Jesus Christ. A time when we prepare to commemorate Jesus’ coming in Bethlehem, as one of us, two thousand years ago, to be aware and live fully from his constant presence with us daily, and to wait for his second coming.
When I was a child in Malta on this first Sunday of Advent my mother would gather us children to sow some seeds which we hid in the dark so that the plants would grow white and very bright and would ornate the crib in a magnificent way. Every Sunday we would water them and compare whose plant had grown most.
Today I see this custom as symbolic of what we are called to during this season. What are the seeds we want to sow at the beginning of this Advent season? The first reading suggest the seeds of Justice, peace and security and reminds us that God fulfils the promise made to us, to grant that these seeds would grow and give fruit. Yet, as we are reminded in the Gospel, our experience is often one of disasters beyond our control, not to mention those which are caused by our own recklessness and sin. What we sow is also what we reap and we are seeing the consequences of our ways of living on our planet and on our ways of relating with one another in violent and abusive ways that lead to exclusion, human trafficking, the pain of victims of sexual abuse, climate change, the migration of whole populations….
However, the readings tell us that the seeds of redemption will grow and bear fruit. The promise will be fulfilled, not by some sort of magic, but through us who wait in joyful hope and in constant prayer for the coming of our saviour Jesus Christ. The contrast is clear between the nations who will be in dismay and perplexed, those who will die of fright and those who still hope and can stand erect and raise their heads for they read the signs asan opportunity and a decision to love others and to receivethe gift of redemption.
Dismay, perplexity, fear, paralyse usand there are ample reasons for us to behave in this way. They stop us from taking the needed action at the appropriate moment. Standing up enables us to show up when and where needed. The plants grow in the dark, where it is difficult to see the positive strength at work. We are called to recognise Jesus, the Emmanuel, God-with-us, God never without us, not in the spectacular but in every person we meet, especially those we would normally exclude and in the small details and gestures, we often fail to notice. Our societies, our politicians, often try to make us afraid of each other, so as to stop us from welcoming the stranger, the migrant, the one who needs our help. On the contrary, being able to stand up, helps us go against the flow. It allows us to make the decision to go out of ourselves, and our own preoccupations and truly love and care for one another and for our planet. Indeed, in so doing, we are welcoming Jesus, the one who came, the one who will come again, the one who is present among us.
I have understood something of what this could call us to during the revolution in Tunis in 2011 where I was living. The crowds were all singing their national anthem, which says: we will die but our nation will live. They were ready to give up their lives so that their children could inherit a better life. They could stand up when everything around them was crumbling.
We too are called to give our lives so that others may live. So much has crumbled in the Church and in societies all over the world. This is producing injustice, unrest, strife for countless numbers of people. As we recognize this “May the Lord make us increase and abound in love for one another and for all people.” May our love be the gift of our lives and may we hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for everyone we meet. May we thus be bearers of hope, sowers of hope wherever we are.
May our plants be most beautiful as we place them next to the crib this Christmas. May our most precious seed be our ability to recognize the coming of Jesus in every person we meet. Have a blessed Advent time.
Carmen Sammut, msola
Carmen Sammut, msola was born and lived her first 22 years on the island of Malta. She wastrained as a teacher and taught for 3 years before joining the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa (msola) in 1974. She completed her religious studies and training in London England and Ottawa Canada. She obtained a degree in Rome in Arabic and Islamic studies. Apart from 2 years in Malawi, her missionary experience has been in Muslim countries in interreligious dialogue. She lived 15 years in Tunisia, 9 years in Algeria and 3 years in Mauritania before becoming, in 2011, congregational leader based in Rome. She has been President of the UISG since 2013.