Pope Francis, in an Angelus message in 2013, emphasized Advent as a time to renew the journey to “a hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the Word of God. A hope that does not disappoint, simply because the Lord never disappoints!”
It’s easy to lose touch with hope these days when violence seems so prevalent. We were shaken with the news that a gunman shot and killed Jamie Schmidt, a parishioner at St. Anthony of Padua in High Ridge, in an attack at a Catholic Supply store in west St. Louis County on Nov. 19. Police said she was a customer at the store. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson asked all parishes in the archdiocese to offer prayers for the victims of the shooting and for an end to all forms of violence everywhere.
A shooting occurred at Mercy Hospital in Chicago the same day, with three people and the shooter killed. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement calling for prayers and steps to curb gun violence. Among other things, he expressed a desire to help promote a culture of life.
Pope Francis asks people to rediscover the beauty of “being together along the way: the Church, with her vocation and mission, and the whole of humanity, the people, the civilizations, the cultures, all together on the paths of time.”
He reminds us that the Lord guides our journey toward the “Kingdom of justice, toward the Kingdom of peace.”
“What a great day it will be, when the weapons will be dismantled in order to be transformed into instruments of work!” the pope said, noting the Scripture passage from the prophet Isaiah which referred to such peace. “And this is possible! We bet on hope, on the hope of peace, and it will be possible!”
In a 2016 statement on violence in our culture following a mass shooting, Archbishop Carlson stated that “already, dangerously irresponsible voices are calling for more hate and violent retribution, adding darkness upon darkness. We stand with the Church, all Christians, members of all faiths, and people of goodwill in calling for love, peace, justice and reconciliation. Following the example of Christ, we offer prayers to all of the families and communities touched by this violence as well as for those responsible for visiting death upon them. Only in the total and unyielding love of God can true and lasting peace be found. God does not count the deaths and suffering of His children differently. He weeps for them all, and so do we.”
Random or senseless acts of violence might be out of our control, but we can influence the the tenor of public discourse that seems to be leading to a hopelessness and dangerous disunity in society.
We must start with ourselves. A thorough examination of our conscience can reveal how we sometimes contribute to the chaos and fear and the sacrament of reconciliation will repair our relationship with God. In that, there is hope.
Our preparation for Christ this Advent must be filled with joy and wonder, with radical hospitality toward Christ, our families and strangers. We must hang onto the Gospel message of hope and promise of peace.
Indeed, Advent comes just in time.