I am very grateful to the Cornell University students with whom I met yesterday. They made a generous contribution to my preparation for Advent.
A reflection on Advent was not part of the agenda for our post-liturgy brunch, nor did anyone mention Advent at all.
Yet I hold the students in gratitude for the joyful hope they communicated during our 90-minute interchange. During that time we touched on a number of subjects — life as a Roman Catholic on the campus of a great university, the transition from high school to college, the move away from family, their hopes and dreams for the campus community and the contribution of the Campus Catholic Community to their life and growth.
These gifted young people spoke of the challenge of their studies, their involvement in service projects dear to their hearts and of their difficulties in finding and maintaining a balance in their lives that reflects values that they hold very dear.
I was much impressed by their willingness and ability to do that, and was no less impressed by the respectful hearing and thoughtful responses they offered to one another.
For sure, this was a group of highly intelligent, deeply motivated individuals who have accomplished much in their lives already and who will, no doubt, do much to better our world for years to come.
But even their many gifts do not take away uncertainty, vulnerability or doubts about the future. In our young friends I found a genuine eagerness to be themselves among one another and in the presence of their guests.
The joyful hope I mentioned above was very special to me. Although they humbly and honestly spoke of their struggles, it was always within a context of faith and touched by their note of hope that the Lord would always be with them, showing the way.
As they recalled God’s ways with them in the past and expressed their dreams for the future, I felt a deep solidarity with them. They know that gratitude for past favors does not guarantee a carefree future. Rather, such gratitude reminds them that God will be with them always — no matter what challenges they may face. And they understand that gratitude does not remain closed in on itself, but impels us to share with others the good gifts we have received.
Although I am much older than they are and although the circumstances of our lives are much different, I found myself dealing with some of the same themes that challenge them. I mean such things as finding time to quiet down and attend deep within to God’s leadings; achieving some reasonable balance in the midst of many demands on time and energy; maintaining one’s integrity in the face of pressures that can lead one to act from expediency rather than from conviction.
I thank my friends from Cornell for reminding me what we all need to discover and rediscover all through the years — that God is always with us and always worthy of our absolute trust. And, that he is with us especially when we are pressed or weary or disheartened.
Please accept my best wishes for an Advent season that puts you in touch in renewed fashion with God’s faithful love for you. It is that awareness that calls us to the lively and joyful hope that God will never leave us orphans. Rather, God will always lead us toward the fullness for which we were made.
Happy Advent and peace to all.