Advent, the Church’s world-wide retreat, now begins its second week. The quiet time. The great contrast with our culture’s turbulent consumer bonanza.
Consumerism-as a-way-of-life can shield our eyes against what needs praying for.
Not just the unstoppable—open sale and use of drugs in high-schools and grade schools, sexual promiscuity as a “life style,” aggressively marketed to every segment of the population—but also the growing collapse of commonly shared values, in favor of a “new morality,” which looks a lot like a dissolution of the ties that bind a culture together.
Surrounded by such sadness and confusion, who can sit back and be quiet in Advent?
Yet the First Reading says we should do so. It tells us to
put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
wrapped in the cloak of justice from God,
bear on your head the mitre [ceremonial hat]
that displays the glory of the eternal name.
According to this First Reading, God is to make us into the peace of justice, his glory on earth. Grief and misery are going to disappear!
Can this be true?
Maybe the Church is just irreparably cut off from the “real world,” hiding in pews and doting on this comforting and “nice” view of life. Is this true of us?
Actually, I think not. I think we are being asked to undergo some “stretching” in our approach to life and in our approach to tragedy. Jesus comes not just into our parties, our dreams of a successful careers, our happiness and cheer, but also and importantly, into the craggy mountains and deep gorges of our lives.
If you are a human being, you know a lot about these. Maybe you are hiding a sadness. What mountain is currently too high for you to approach? What utter failure hides in the recesses of your heart? Whatever these are for you, whether they be great or small, there exists an answer in Advent: letting God’s depths take up residence in your own soul.
Think of it: Christ, wanting to gestate right now in your heart, just as you and I did in our mother’s womb. His birth may not make the world pleasant and polite, but it will connect you at your very roots with the mysterious profundity of God.
Will you let him be born in you this year, a little more than in the past one? Are you willing to let your insides pull wider than ever before and so make room? This is the meaning of Advent. Stretch like a momma!
You do not have to be capable of such a feat all by yourself. As Paul says in the Second Reading, “the one who began the good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” You can rely on the tender care of God and of his carefully-tending mother. Let them help you to dis-close yourself, to tease open doors that have been shut too long.
Advent care can help you.
The word of God came to John [the Baptist] son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Gospel).
Prepare the way of the Lord.
John Foley, SJ
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