4TH SUNDAY ADVENT C 2012
In scripture the people ask God to take their hearts of stone and make them into hearts of flesh. Throughout Advent we have become more aware of the experience of emptiness that a human heart has within it. Living hearts, not stone ones.
But increasing our own emptiness and increasing our darkness can be frightening. The dark spreads out its kingdom every day here in the Northern hemisphere as Christmas comes nearer. Last Friday we experienced the shortest day of the year. We see less by natural light.
But there is a blessings in deprivation, darkness and rainy days. Increased dark allows human beings to hunker down inside their shelter, cozy and patient, waiting for the light to come back. It helps them reflect upon themselves.
If I were to ask you to draw a line down the middle of a blank sheet of paper and list on the left side of the line 10 things you held as important in your life, you would probably not have a great difficulty in completing the task. Even now take a moment to think of five. Now on the right side, list the last time you actually did any of the things you put on the left side.
Having certain praiseworthy values is no guarantee I’ll act on them.
We need to regularly examine our consciousness. To make more deliberate choices about how we spend our energies and our lives, we want to stop once or twice each day to re-orient our awareness, our consciousness, our focus. We can do this by asking two simple questions: What has happened so far today for which l am already grateful? And, what has happened so far today for which I could have been grateful, or should have been grateful, but l missed it entirety or let go of it too quickly?
By asking the first question, we "re-train" our awareness to notice and hold onto experiences of goodness. This is important because our awareness has been trained to be much more attentive to those things which are imperfect or undone. To the extent that this is true for us, we are not experiencing the goodness that is already part of our lives.
The second question, “What has happened so far today for which I could have been grateful?”, allows us to go back through our day and sift through it all with a finer sieve, in order to find treasure we had missed the first time through. It is crucial to remember that we are not searching for that which was perfect, but rather for that which was good. Often we can discover moments of goodness even in the midst of some of the most challenging experiences of the day. "l apologized to someone this morning, and it went pretty well."
We want to be as concrete and specific as we can when we answer these questions about things we are grateful for or should have been grateful. We sift through the ordinary things that make up our days: our conversations and interactions with others, the things we have done, the matters we have mulled over, the feelings we have had. The goal of our reflection is to recognize and savor the moments of goodness that are part of our everyday lives.
By reclaiming our awareness of the very concrete and particular experiences of goodness each day, we reclaim our sense of the presence of God in all the moments of our lives.We come to know more deeply the truth that God walks with us and abides with us. God is intimately involved in our daily lives - all of which are expressions of Cod's love.
"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."
How do we discover “Emmanuel”, God with us, day by day?Through awareness that we are held in His love. Only God would love so much that He would become one of us to win our love. St. Athanasius, an early doctor of the Church, wrote, “Because of his great love for us, Jesus, the Word of God, became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”
Today we see the appropriate response to the awareness that God is Emmanuel, he is with us. When something exciting happens, one can’t contain oneself; you simply have to share the news with someone else. This is what happened with Mary and Elizabeth. They had both experienced something miraculous, and they couldn’t wait to talk with each other about it.
When Mary appeared, Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and cried out words of blessing. Mary, in reply, offered a prayer of worship to the Lord for all he was doing in her; the magnificat.
The church is about evangelizing and growing in holiness. It’s about everyday people responding to the Spirit and working together in love to achieve these ends. Surely Mary and Elizabeth’s time together strengthened both of them for the work that lay ahead. The same can happen for us as we share with each other about the things that God is showing us. It doesn’t have to be deep or profound. We just have to try, and the Holy Spirit will lead us.
This is a “Year of Faith” for the universal church. We have embarked on a special period of Evangelization in the Diocese, sharing the Good News as Mary and Elizabethdid in their visitation.In our visitation with one another do we not have good news to share about our church as a place to encounter the one who leads us to life. Again as I said before, it is crucial to remember that we are not searching for that which is perfect, but rather for that which is good. If one of the ten things we are grateful for in our life is our Faith and our Church, how have we demonstrated that it is important to us? Will we invite others to come to treasure the Faith and church as we do? Christmas may be a great opportunity to “Open wide the Door to Faith”.Invite a family member, invite a friend to accompany you to celebrate the one who has influenced even secular society profoundly to become a society that cares for the poor, that strives for peace and good will between all nations.
With deep gratitude we pray: Lord of all love, you have come to us so we can come to you. You have become physical so we can become spiritual. You have embraced us with your Love so we can embrace others with your love. We thank you for choosing us to be part of your plan. We thank you for allowing us to join Mary and Elizabeth in the excitement of your Coming Presence. We ask you now to give us the strength and the courage to proclaim your Presence with our Lives.