First Sunday in Advent
She’s now only four feet tall. In a year or two she will be ten times taller.
Inspired by the Statute of Liberty in New York, a group in San Diego is erecting a 40-foot statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary named “Welcome the Stranger.” It will be built at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish and be part of a meditation garden. So we will soon have Lady Liberty on one coast and Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God, on the other to welcome those who come to our shores and borders.
The statue and garden are intended to be a message to those coming from nearby Tijuana. Instead of a wall, the people of the parish want to build a bridge. Instead of a message of fear and exclusion, they want to share a message of comfort and hope. Describing his work, the artist said, “The experience of the migrant is a hard one. That experience cuts across cultures…. Fundamentally, people of our culture welcome the stranger. We’re all from somewhere else, and we’ve learned to get along.” (Well, most of us.)
Today we begin Advent—a season of journeys. Our Lord Jesus came to us in history through the mystery of the Incarnation. He passed from us and then returned in the mystery of his Passion and resurrection. He will return one day in glory.
In a sense, all of us are spiritual migrants in a pilgrim church. We are forever trying to realize the vision of St. Paul in our second reading: to abound in love, to grow in holiness, and to live in the ways that please God.
Our ancestors in the faith had their own journeys. With a great and courageous faith, Abraham left the land he knew to enter into a covenant with God. Jacob and his family migrated to Egypt in a time of famine, and they relied on Joseph and ultimately on God to protect them. Moses led his people from slavery in Egypt to the land that God promised them. The people of Israel suffered 70 years of exile in Babylon, but God brought them back to their land.
From the beginning, the Church has also been on a journey. We have grown from Jerusalem and Palestine to “the ends of the earth.” We continue to grow.
In Advent, we also begin the journey of another liturgical year. We begin in hope, not fear. We prepare to welcome Jesus, who himself was a migrant and was born in a place that was not his home. He asks us to prepare with vigilance and not let our hearts grow drowsy with complacency or be overwhelmed with anxiety when we are faced with times of trial and tribulation.
Maranatha! Come, Lord, Jesus!