Advent, which began yesterday, points in hope toward the end of times, when Christ will come again in glory. In yesterday's passage from the Gospel of Saint Luke (21: 25-28, 34-36), Jesus speaks of end-of-time signs that will cause people to "faint from fear", yet he encourages his followers "to stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is near at hand."
We don't need to wait until the end of the world before we encounter "signs" that can give rise to deep anxiety in our lives. Family strife, financial hardship, illness, unemployment, the troubled world situation such as in the Middle East, can all be the cause of unease and fear. The Lord's message is the same; do not fear. Why? Because our redemption - i.e. Jesus - is near at hand. The Lord who first came to us in the Incarnation, and who will come again at the end of time, does not abandon us in the meantime. He is the reason we do not fear, but remain hopeful at all times.
This hope sets us free. Fear paralyzes; hope liberates. Yesterday the Holy Father released an apostolic letter motu proprio, i.e., on his own initiative, on the service of charity. He reminds us that charity is "a constitutive element of the Church's mission", together with proclamation of the word and celebration of the sacraments. In other words, charity cannot be absent from the life of anyone who chooses to follow Jesus Christ. Yet fear can stand in the way. Responding to the signs of our times with fear closes us in on ourselves and off from others. Responding with hope, however, sets us free of self-concern and expands our awareness to encompass the needy in our midst.
May the message of Advent that our "redemption is near at hand" set us free from worry and anxiety in order to bring hope, by the service of charity, to all who are in need and in the grip of fear.