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    ADVENT AND THE PANDEMIC

    Struggling to pray this Advent? Find a reason for hope amid the crisis of the pandemic with this reflection for the third week of Advent

    By Gerald Korson 12/11/2020
    An Advent wreath lit to mark the countdown of the first three weeks before Christmas. (Getty Images)

    During the present pandemic, we have had a bit more on our plates this year than normal. With churches having been shut down or operating at reduced capacity, reducing access to the sacraments, have we found ourselves struggling to pray?

    As we mark the Third Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday, it’s a time to reflect on these struggles and turn again to prayer even amid this crisis.

    Gaudete is a Latin word for “rejoice,” and we are called to rejoice now because our time of Advent waiting is coming to a close, and we are reminded that God is about to fulfill his promises to us. This is cause for our thanksgiving.

    The readings for this Sunday’s liturgy practically shout for joy about the Messiah’s coming. The first reading from Isaiah is a prophecy of Christ’s coming, the very passage Jesus read aloud in the Temple when he revealed himself as its fulfillment (see Lk 4:16-30). The responsorial psalm is taken from the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer of praise when she greeted her cousin Elizabeth while she bore the Christ child in her womb. The Gospel has John the Baptist proclaiming the imminent arrival of the Messiah. God has sent us the Redeemer of the world.

    So our hope and our vigilance are to be rewarded. Just as the ancient Jews anticipated the coming of the Christ, so do we anticipate his return in glory. We must stand firm in faith, vigilant and hopeful, so that we are ready when he comes.

    But that’s easier said than done. How do we sustain our hopeful vigil? St. Paul provides the answer in our second reading: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks” so that we may be “preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Thes 5:16-24). In other words: Gaudete.

    LEARN ABOUT GAUDETE SUNDAY OF ADVENT
     AND THE COLORS OF THE SEASON HERE

    We need to be constant in prayer because Satan is always trying to drag us down, to separate us from Christ. Prayer is a “battle,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoing many saints. It is a battle “against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. ... The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer” (CCC 2725).

    Prayer is our primary means of communication with God. Every soldier knows that one key to defeating an enemy force is to cut off its lines of communication to its commanders. When we let Satan draw us away from prayer and rejoicing, we lose hope because we begin to forget God’s wonderful promises to us. When we become lax in our interior life of prayer, we are less prepared to do battle and therefore fail to remain vigilant.

    It’s not easy to manufacture joy within ourselves, but we can begin by contemplating God’s infinite goodness toward us and express our gratitude for it all. We can even thank him for the trials, challenges, and disappointments we face, for every adversity is an opportunity for us to grow in holiness and virtue with the help of his grace. Even the pandemic can teach us things like patience, generosity, and compassion.

    Pray always, Paul says, because God will not disappoint us: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it” (1 Thes 5:24).

    Gerald Korson, a veteran Catholic journalist, is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Indiana. This is his third reflection in the Knights of Columbus Advent series. Read the reflection for the second week of Advent here and first week of Advent here.

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