1st Sunday of Advent

Over the last few weeks the celebrations in Berlin, Prague and Budapest drew the attention of the mass media. Twenty years ago the peoples of Central Europe liberated themselves from communism and Soviet power. The desire for freedom survived in the peoples’ hearts despite oppression, persecution and brain washing. Communists believed that new generations, grown in that system would be compliant society. They were wrong. The desire for freedom was stronger than anything. The oppressed people fought and overwhelmed the oppressive system.

We can see a similar desire concerning Scottish society; in the last few days a public discussion about independence of Scotland was revived. This is happening in an apparently wealthy and independent country.

The main theme of today’s readings is freedom. The prophet Jeremiah announced forthcoming liberation. For the Jewish people, defeated by the Babylonians, removed from their homeland and scattered among other nations, that was a comforting promise. They lost their military power and the state; they had no chance to recover their country by military action. The prophets of the exiles called on the Jews to discover more a powerful dimension of freedom: the internal one.

Talking about freedom we usually think about its political and/or economical dimension. These meanings are very important, but not sufficient. External freedom is nothing without internal freedom to decide about one’s own life. This internal freedom is the foundation of a good use of the external one. In the days of Jesus the tragedy of many contemporary people was the expectation of military action against the Roman occupation. Many of them didn’t hear – or didn’t want to hear – Jesus speaking about internal freedom; freedom from sin. As a result the Jewish people were banned from Jerusalem for about nineteen centuries.

In the second reading Saint Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to hold on to this internal freedom, because freedom is not just a once for all gift. It demands constant personal effort.

The gospel tells us the directions to sustain our internal freedom. Let me read it again: “watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life […] Stay awake praying at all times for the strength to survive”. May the Advent, we’ve just started, help us to revive our desire for internal freedom and teach us to make good use of the external one.