1st Sunday of Advent
Before embarking on our recent pilgrimage to the shrines of France with 27 other pilgrims, I had the opportunity to visit the World Trade Center Memorial in Manhattan last month. What one finds there are people from all over the world who have also in a sense come on pilgrimage to learn, to grieve, to remember, and perhaps to try to make sense of suffering somehow. Mixed in among us were grieving relatives, (yes, after 16 years), gently rubbing the names of loved ones etched into the two reflecting pool perimeters that once held the towers.
Among the many moving images that one finds there are the wall of faces; so many faces! Religious or not, Catholic, Jewish, Agnostic, Muslim, young, old: thousands of pictures of people who went to work that day, and simply never came home. The Lord came for them on a day they were not expecting, and their lives and deaths can speak deeply to us in our times.
Not knowing any of these people, I have to admit that I sat there and cried, just like almost everyone else there. Each person has a story to tell! Many individuals are represented in narrative form in movies you can watch, each life precious to God, and remembered by him,precious to him. In death, they speak to us of the preciousness of life, of our families that we are blessed to share in Thanksgiving and Christmas, and of our hope of eternal life. This silent wall of faces speaks of our own brief existence in this world, one that, because of our faith in Christ, is infused with deep meaning, for Christ, our savior and creator, also died like this. He is one of us. He was there too. And he is one with us in our sufferings.
Advent is a season of renewal and rebirth. The picture above was taken at twilight because I got lost on the subway coming home that evening and ended up back at the Trade Center. God has a gift waiting for us, even when we think we are lost. Earth is not our home,but only a kind of subway station where we stay for a while. What matters here is our faith and how we live it and the people whose lives we are called to make a difference in. Remember always that Christmas, which we are all preparing for now, is not about what we receive (other than Christ!), but what we give to others.