LET US GO REJOICING | Dominus Est Advent Reflections
First Sunday Advent Reflections by Fr. Kevin Joshua Cosme
Have you ever been on a pilgrimage, or maybe climbed a mountain? When we were in the seminary, we had this annual tradition of starting the school year with a pilgrimage to the Antipolo Cathedral, to the image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. We would make the journey on foot, gathering as a community in our chapel at midnight to pray for a safe journey. After some stretching exercises, it was time to head out! Depending on your speed, you could reach the cathedral in three to five hours. You could run all the way there if you were athletic, but for the rest of us mortals we were mostly walking, sometimes running, at certain points praying the rosary, maybe making a pit stop at a 7 Eleven to buy Gatorade, but always pressing onward, together, until our tired and weary feet take us to within view of the magnificent cathedral. And when we arrive sweating buckets and savoring the cool mountain air, we mouth a prayer of thanksgiving to the Blessed Mother. Our journey is complete, and we are at peace.
Dear friends, we begin our Advent journey with the scriptural theme of making a pilgrimage. Advent is a time of preparation. It is the journey that takes place before the arrival. This is the theme of our First Reading. Isaiah prophesies about the nations gathering in pilgrimage to go up to the mountain of God. What do they find there? They find the Lord in the Temple, who judges between them and instructs them in the ways of peace. There God teaches them to destroy their weapons of war, the instruments of death, and turn them into tools of life instead.
Notice what happens on this pilgrimage. The Gentiles who previously walked on their own separate roads and waged war upon each other find peace only after walking in the same path in a specific direction, that is, towards God. This is a lesson for us. If we are not going towards God, we will never find true peace. When we go in directions that do not lead to God we meet unrest, suffering, and war. Do you feel restless? Is there conflict in the home, in school, or in the workplace? Perhaps people there have been treading the wrong path. If you want real peace in your home, in your environment, inside yourself, you have to be moving in a specific direction. You have to orient yourself towards God.
But this pilgrimage is not done alone. Isaiah says that the nations go up together. We, too, go on the pilgrimage together, as a Church. We are going to the House of God where we congregate and meet each other. During this pandemic we may have gotten used to following Mass online, but now we have the chance to return to the House of God, to our nearest church, in order to assemble as pilgrims. You simply can’t do this behind a screen or a TV. This Advent, we are being called to come back to church! If we are able to go to school or to work already - and even to malls! - all the more we should be going back to church. If we are able, there’s simply no excuse not to. Trust me. Making a pilgrimage is a lot more bearable and meaningful if you’re doing it with others.
As we embark on these four weeks of Advent preparations for Christmas, let us remind ourselves of our status not as wanderers and strangers, but as pilgrims and companions on the road. Our destination is the House of God, where we will find the little Babe of Bethlehem, in whom alone we will find peace.
I leave you this week’s Food for the Journey taken from the Responsorial Psalm:
“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”