2ND SUNDAY ADVENT C 2012
Near the end of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells of St. Paul defending himself and his ministry before Agrippa. When Festus, the procurator who was present at the hearing, accused him of being mad, Paul argued that he was speaking words of truth and reason. He also claimed that all those present were well aware of Jesus and all that he had done while among them. “This was not done in a corner!” declared Paul. Scholars tell us that Paul quoted this Greek proverb in order to affirm that the story of Jesus and the entire history of Christianity were public knowledge and could not be dismissed as a fiction contrived by his disciples.
Today Luke had a similar intention when he brings John the Baptizer on the stage to introduce Jesus. By naming the civil and religious authorities who held office at that time, the evangelist situated the ministries of John and Jesus squarely in the midst of human history. Our salvation was not accomplished in a corner, nor was the good news invented by a small group of misguided messianic dreamers.
Advent is a time of joyful anticipation of “salvation”; of being drawn into life. It is time, the prophet Baruch says, "to take off the garment of your sorrow and afflication," for God is leading his people "with the mercy and righteousness that come from him." God’s people are to "put on the robe of the righteousness that come from God."
Paul, too, speaks of joyful anticipation, of waiting for "the day of Jesus Christ." He encourages the Philippians to grow in "love, understanding, wealth of experience, clear conscience, and blameless conduct," and he concludes with a wish: "that you may be pure and blameless, having produced a harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ." “Ripening” is a slow process.
What sadness engulfs you? What mountain is currently too high to conquer? What utter failure hides in the recesses of your heart? Only one possible solution exists for these troubles, whether they be huge or small: to let God take you to a deeper, more intimate part of your own soul.
This process of conversion is not a one night stand in a rival tent with some John the Baptist preacher. It is as St. Paul alludes; “a Harvest of righteousness” at the end of a long season of growth. We have a four week retreat in preparation for the harvest. It is true that Christ wants to be born not only in Bethlehemand return again at the end times. (We have another prediction that the world will end on Dec 21st. I would rather bet that the
Like a mother, we have to stretch! What is truly divine can only appear after a certain kind of gestation. Will you let him be born in you this year, a little more than in the past? Are you willing to let your insides pull wider than ever before and so make room? This is the meaning of Advent. Stretch.
The mother is expectant, we say. She waits and carries the child that grows within her. She prepares for the arrival. She yearns. She labors. Fasting is the necessary prelude to feasting. Great joy is not experienced if one is not first properly prepared. Advent is about proper waiting.
Each person is trying to get somewhere, to be something. At every stage, he is hoping that if he could only—only what? Only ride the bike, get a date, finish the degree, land the job, buy the house, get the raise—then, oh, then, he would have gotten what he wanted to have. He would be what he wanted to be. The goal posts move farther!
What is it we really want to have and to be? What is the point of anything we strive for in our lives? We do know what we wait for.
The Psalm illuminates that desire brilliantly. Ultimately and only completely, on the other side of death, all the failures, all the sins, all the pains—everything that caused tears in earthly life—will be redeemed into joy. Even if a person ended the earthly story of his life with only seeds of faith, hope, and love, he will reap the fruit of those seeds with rejoicing in the world to come. At that time, she will at who she has become and think she must be dreaming. She bursts into laughter of joy. "Reap with shouts of joy!"
We wait the day of the Lord. Because the One we await is the source of all goodness, justice, peace and truth, our Advent preparedness will require that we straighten out what has grown crooked in our lives, fill in the gaps created by our selfishness and descend from the heights where our pride and arrogance have led us.
We must listen to the voice that stirs within us. A voice came, just one voice in the desert, heralding the coming of One who is above all powers and principalities. One single voice! A single voice, residing not in the halls of power but in the wilderness of the desert, was all he needed. And the people flocked to that voice!
Even today, God’s voice has the power to silence all the other voices in our lives. We may hear a voice of guilt and self-condemnation. Our own flesh may invite with words of self-indulgence and self-pity. Our world offers us a ton of advice and invitations to choose the next best thing to satisfy our cravings. But God’s voice can still them all. What is that voice saying to you today? Listen for it. Pay attention to it and treasure it. Know that every time you hear that voice, Jesus is drawing you a little bit closer. His promises become more real to you, and his power becomes more believable. Turn to that voice. Absorb its words of love and encouragement and hope. Follow its gentle leading. This still, small voice has the power to drown out the others.
Origen, a 3rd century Father of the Church, advises us who enter this Advent time:
“Is it not a straight and level highway in our hearts that we are to make ready? Prepare a way for the Lord by living a good life and guard that way by good works. Let the Word of God move in you unhindered and give you a knowledge of his coming and of his mysteries. To him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”