Pope Francis was in the news this week in a big way, more than usual. The United States and Cuba came to an agreement to resume diplomatic relations, and both gave the Holy Father credit for facilitating the process. This doesn’t make everything right this instant, but it is huge step in the right direction: whatever you may think about the Cuban government, 54 years of no relations and embargo hasn’t succeeded, we have relations with many governments who are no higher moral standing (leaving aside our own moral standing), and the ability to talk with people is a sign of strength and not weakness. We cannot affect anyone in a positive way by refusing to talk with them. To see Pope Francis working at peace in this season is a sign of hope, a sign that all change isn’t for the worse and hope for the better happens.
Some of us will remember the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall. We thought those realities were going to be with us forever, at least for generations, but change for the better happened. There are other situations in human history that are no longer with us, conflicts that seemed beyond resolution, that have been resolved. Hope springs eternal, and as Christians we are called to be a people of hope.
Mary lived in a dangerous time. Her homeland was under Roman occupation, a cruel tyranny that cared nothing for its subjects, and she probably thought it would never end. Mary’s future seemed set: she would be a homemaker, cook, mother, caring for her family and taking her part in the village. Then this 14 year old was visited by an angel with overwhelming news. She was the one who would give birth to the Messiah. I can’t imagine what that reality meant when it sunk in, exhilarating and frightening, wonderful and dangerous, hopeful above all. Things had to change for the better with the Messiah’s coming, to know it was coming in her lifetime, through her, had to be news of great joy.
As Christians, we are called to be a people of Hope. We know that things can change for the better, something wonder will happen, and it doesn’t have any relationship to Santa’s arrival. Jesus comes to us today, is in our midst in the Eucharist, a sign that change for the better is happening. We are going to be transformed as we receive the Eucharist: like Mary, we leave with Christ inside us, and a message of Hope. This is something we can never give up, for great catastrophes begin with people who have given up Hope. In Advent as well as all year long, we are called to be witnesses that change for the better will happen, is happening now. We are witness of Christ, we are witnesses of Hope.