Advent has always been a season of wonders for me. The rich readings from Isaiah and other prophets promise all kinds of miracles–flowers in the dry wilderness, pools of water in the desert, sound health to the maimed. Then there are the smiles and warm thanks from the homebound I visit at this time of the year.
But when will these promises find fulfillment? When the Kingdom of God is finally upon us, we are told. But now and then we get a glimmer of what it all means. A sign that the promised peace is at hand.
Last night, at our Advent penance service for Pohnpeians living in the southern part of Guam, the signs couldn’t be missed. Men and women were in tears as they held up the sakau cup and apologized to one another for their role in dividing the church community. A few months earlier many of the key members of the parish council were voted out of office in a dispute that turned ugly amid charges of favoritism and misuse of funds. Some of the disgruntled individuals who had been deposed simply vanished. They were conspicuous by their absence from our Sunday mass.
But they were at our service last night, and so were most of those who had been responsible for removing them from office. They all listened to the same reading from Isaiah (35.1-11), heard the appeal to open their hearts, and drank from the same sakau cup. Then they received absolution from their sins. The rest was tears, apologies with broken voices, and warm hugs–among a people not given to outward display of emotion, no less. Local food followed–lots of it–to complete the celebration.
Now and then, as I said, we get a peek into the unity and love that is promised to those who welcome the Infant. All of us were fortunate enough to have shared that last night. If this is just a hint of what’s to come, just imagine the joy of the real thing!