Advent is the Time for Exiles

3 December 2006. First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33, 14-16; 1 Thess 3,12 – 4,2 and Luke 21, 25-28, 34-36

At 37, I realized that half of my life has been spent away from home. But then, even my childhood centered on days at school and nights with my friends. I was hardly home. A scene from the movie, Cinema Paradiso by Guiseppe Tornatore, shows the return of Salvatore (Jacques Perrin), a renowned film director, to his hometown in Giancaldo, Italy. He returned to attend the funeral of Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), his long-time friend, confidante, and mentor. As he returns, he reminisces about his childhood and adolescence, going back to the places and people he has not seen for decades.

Advent is a season for those who have been away from home for decades. It is a time for exiles. A time of yearning to come back home. The atmosphere of Advent revolves around the experience of the Hebrew exiles, their cries of repentance, regret, and pleading. Our homelessness may also mean a spiritual, psychological or emotional separation: when we know that we are not true to ourselves, or that we have been exiled by others. Many have been exiled from themselves because they anguish over some things in them that they cannot yet accept. Members of families are separated from each other; others live together but are emotionally distant from each other. Some people have been refused admittance in some societies because of their marital status, sexual preference, ideological stance or organizational affiliations. There was a time when no fraternity/sorority member could join UPSCA and ICTUS. In addition, some are not yet at home with their past. If we find ourselves displaced and transplanted like many of the students who have left their hometowns to study here at the University of the Philippines; if we find ourselves in a strange setting as discovering a sub-culture in a university; and if we find ourselves in exile, Advent is the season for us.

In one of the flashbacks of the movie, Salvatore falls for a girl named Elena (Agnese Nano), but his deeply-felt passion isn't reciprocated. So he agonizes over the situation, seeks out Alfredo's advice, then makes a bold decision: he will stand outside of Elena's window every night until she relents. In the end, love wins out, but Salvatore's joy is eventually replaced by sadness as Elena vanishes forever in his life. Alfredo advised Toto, as Salvatore was called, not to return home. When Alfredo died, he left Salvatore a montage of all the kissing scenes edited at Cinema Paradiso. And as he watched them all, he realized what has been lacking in his life: his true love.

Something in us always needs to be called home. Advent is a time for us to be aware of what we lack and who’s not home: to see who our true love is. We need to see what or who we lack inside. Advent is a time to reclaim what we have lost in our lives. Advent focuses on our own place of exile and whether or not this Jesus who was born on earth has made a difference in our lives. Do we have a great desire and yearning for God to fill the void inside of us? Advent focuses us on the empty spaces in our hearts.

Cinema Paradiso connects with people through memories. Advent connects us with people and with the past; and be reconciled with it. Advent is a season to remember that Jesus has already come, and that he has offered us many insights and examples for our own homecoming. As we enter into our desires to return home, we also hold the consolations of God close to our exiled hearts: the God who assures us of hope and comfort, peace and security, when we return home. Advent is a homecoming, a time of joy and a renewed enthusiasm as we hear God’s promises again to be with us and to resettle us back in love. Though we hear the songs of Advent, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “O Come Divine Messiah” as if the Lord has been absent and is still to come, we see, on the other hand, that it is us who have been away, and that the Lord waits for us to come home.

Finally, Advent has always been a season for waiting. It is indeed tough when we are currently waiting for something painful to occur or to change. I know many people who are waiting. Some are terminally ill and are waiting to die. There is a family waiting to be healed of all the pain of a divorce. Another is waiting for the job after his interview; another is waiting for the results of the bar exams. And yet, the waiting is hopeful and patient. One can expect the arrival of those we wait. It is illustrated by the image of my mother who waits outside of our house to welcome me back. And so as we wait, we patiently pray that God welcomes us back in his heart once again.

*This Italian movie won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1989 and a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.


mary grace said...

Your homily today give's inspiration to all. yes, you're right. i believe that advent season is a time of yearning to come back home, return whats lost, overcome the pains, to forgive& love one another, hoping for miracles, have peace of mind. ang sarap ng feeling knowing that after all those past years we've been far away from our wakas during this advent season makakauwi na tayo. nakaka excite isipin na makakasama na natin sila during christmas& new year...but how sad for those na hindi talaga makauwi for some reasons, just like me, how i wish na i could be there with them too...masakit man isipin, i should be strong& accept na i really can't. i missed my loving husband, 12yr old daughter,& 5yr old son. kaya for those who have the chance, you're so lucky enough & you should make the most of it..wag sayangin ang time, make it special. i know magiging masaya talaga kayo. while me,locked up in this university alone, but syempre i will do my best to spend my advent meaningful...anyway i'm not totally alone naman coz' i have "GOD" with me & some 'friends' out there. thank you so much for this inspiring homily...more power to you Fr.Jb. God will Bless You always & your family.

Jessel Gerard said...

Thank you very much. Actually, we have to pray for many families who were victims of the typhoon Reming. I am from there, so am also waiting for word about them. prayers please.

Mg said...

Yes, i will do pray for your family &those families na affected ng bagyo reming. i know na magiging malungkot ang pasko nila. sana okey lang sila doon, but i do believe na if "GOD" take's something to us, i know na "HE" will give much more in return...prayer is so powerful, nothing is impossible if we have faith inside our heart no matter how painful it is. Thank you so much also for the prayers you offered for me. you're the best priest for me...see you around God Bless you Fr.Jb. take care!!!