By Archbishop JOSÉ H. GOMEZ of Los Angeles

Advent is a beautiful season of hope and joy, when we know that Jesus Christ has come to earth and that God is with us always.

This year, my joy is tempered with some sadness, because I know that for many of our brothers and sisters, here in Los Angeles and throughout California and our country, this is a time of anxiety and distress.

Many are out of work or do not have enough work to make a decent living. Many have had their families broken up and are living in poverty because of their uncertain immigration status.

It is hard to think of spiritual realities when there are so many material worries, when the future seems uncertain and it is hard just to make it through every day.

But Advent brings a message of joyful hope for every one of us.

To those who are suffering and in need, Advent brings the message the angel brought to Mary, “Do not be afraid! … With God nothing will be impossible!”

God is with us! This is the most consoling truth we can ever know! In his plan of love, he has entered into our history, and he has entered into each one of our lives.

Our God came to us as an unexpected child; as a refugee forced to emigrate to Egypt with his family; as a man who worked with his hands; as one who loved his friends and family; as one who knew hunger and thirst; as one who suffered for the sake of God — to show us the path to life and to open the door to heaven for us.

Jesus came in difficult times. He experienced every hardship we can know. He was like us in all things except for sin. He gave us the example of a positive outlook on life. And he changed the world!

So our Christian hope is never shallow optimism or wishful thinking. Our hope is true and real! Our hope is in God who has shown us his face — the face of Jesus Christ.

“I will be with you always.” That is God’s promise. And God does not forget his promises. We are children of God! And God will never leave his children alone.

Jesus is with us in our trials. So we need to resist the natural temptations to envy, bitterness or despair. Instead we need to pray more and to love Jesus more. We need to put all our trust in him.

We can believe his promises — that in everything God works for good with those who love him; that nothing can separate us from his love; and that what we suffer in this world will never compare to the glory that awaits us in the world to come.

Of course, our faith is never easy. And we must make sure that our faith in eternal life never becomes an excuse to tolerate injustice or what offends human dignity in this present life.

Christian hope is never a selfish concern for our own salvation. It is not hope for an imaginary world in a far-off future.

“Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” Our hope for heaven leads us to seek the values of heaven here on earth, to build a city of love and truth, an earthly city worthy of the children of God.

This is the message of Advent for all of us: As God comes in love to share his life with us, we are called to share his love in our lives with others.

Our Advent hope calls us to be people of compassion and companions to others. These are beautiful words with a deep Christian meaning. Compassion means, “to suffer with,” to share in the passion of others. Companion means, literally, one who shares bread (“panis” in Latin).

We are called to live the passionate love we find in the Eucharist — to sacrifice for one another, to share our bread with the hungry. We are called to be like the first Christians, who found their lives in giving them, who came to know Jesus “in the breaking of the bread.”

We live in tough and uncertain times. Let us face these times together with God — not in a spirit of division or despair, but with compassion and companionship, seeking the coming of his Kingdom. Perseverance brings hope. And our hope will not be disappointed. We can do all things in Jesus Christ who strengthens us!

As we enter this final week of Advent, let’s pray for one another.

Let us ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast we celebrated this week, to help us grow in hope, as we walk with our God, who comes to us at Christmas and is with us always. VN

Follow Archbishop Gomez at: www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez