We are in Advent. Jesus is coming. As a mother, I remember when a new baby was placed in my arms. When I looked down at this infant, she looked at me so seriously and deeply that I was startled. I thought, 'This baby knows everything!' The wisdom that came through the eyes of the little girl amazed me and it was clear that this child had come from heaven. She knew God. It was there in the dignity of her gaze.
We think of Jesus in the manger, a new born baby, destined to be King. He is born helpless, willing to share the intense and aching vulnerability of our humanity. Indeed, he was born to be vulnerable, to submit himself fully to the hatred of those suffering separation from the Father's will. Why do I say that the Lord's executioners and persecutors were suffering? Because, where there is no union with the divine will, there will be no peace. When looking on the scene of the Passion, it would be clear in our humanity that the person we would least like to change places with would be Jesus Christ. But in looking on the scene of the Passion in our spiritual selves, the person we would be most willing to change places with is Jesus Christ. We do not want to be the bad guys in the lives of others. We want to love like Jesus.
Yes, the Lord, Jesus Christ, comes as an infant in a manger and we, His people, wait for Christmas. As I prayed about this, with the expectation and wonder that comes in the mystical contemplation of Christmas, I saw something more. I saw again that, truly, as an apostolate, we are an Advent people. Our whole reason for being mystically assembled around the world is to prepare for Jesus to come again as King. Blessed John Paul II said that we were in the Advent period of the Second Coming. This is simple, but big, like the Great Wall of China. Sometimes, when looking at something big, it is hard to take in and we have to consider it. So let us think. What does it look like to be an Advent people?
Well, I suppose that in order to know what an Advent person looks like, we will each have to look in the mirror, meaning, we will have to study Christ in us, personally. We are THE Advent people. This is THE Advent time. Christ is returning, not just 2000 years ago, but today, at this moment, through each of us. This is the plan. Mary, our mother, received Jesus into her body not only for the people alive at the first Christmas but also for every person, for all time. Mary received Jesus into her body and delivered him for each one of us. Mary, right now, this Advent, desires to deliver Jesus to us personally. Mary was the first Tabernacle and Jesus was happy to be nestled safely in His mother's body. In the same way, Jesus is happy to be nestled safely in each one of our souls. We, like Mary, are called to deliver Christ to others. We, like Mary, will have to be generous in our hearts to do that. We, like Mary, will have to surrender our plan for our life in order to give birth, through our life, to God's plan for us and for humanity. What we do counts! Our answer, like Mary's, is important.
Did God ask Mary to give one day a week, so that He could be born into the world? Did God say, Mary, have the baby and that will be you finished. Once you deliver the plan, you're done. No. Mary not only delivered the Saviour, Gods' plan for the Redemption of mankind, Mary was called to protect the Saviour, in an on-going way. My friends, we are the same. When we accept Christ, it is not an answer for a moment, but an answer for a lifetime, or, at least, hopefully, from now on. When we say our Allegiance Prayer, we are not giving the ONLY yes of the day, just the first yes of the day. We are called to give a series of yes answers so that the hope that God has brought to us can be delivered to others. God needed Mary to give Him her whole heart and God needs us to give him our whole hearts. In our Catholic faith, we do this by living our vocations fully, completely, in unity with the Magisterium of the Church, as servants to God and to each other, committed witnesses. What are we witnessing to? We are witnessing to Jesus as the baby in the manger, to Jesus as the rejected Victim, lifted high up onto his earthly throne, the cross, and to Jesus as He sits calmly on His heavenly throne as King of all that belongs to His Father.
We are an Advent people. We are called to proclaim the healing message of goodness, of joy that people yearn for, especially at Christmas. As apostles of this Returning King, we are called to live one big Advent season so that others can have hope. My friends, do you remember a time when you had lost hope? And what that felt like? Never forget how that felt because others are suffering that right now.This is why Jesus continually brings us hope.
This is why Jesus urges us again and again to accept hope and why indeed hope is such an important thing. Pope Benedict said, "It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."
So we ask again, what does an Advent people look like? I'll tell you a story. One day, at a morning Mass, the people saw a different priest come in. He was very old. He was filling in for the parish priest and he made his way slowly and painfully to the altar, using a walker. When it was time for the homily, one would have thought he would skip it. But this priest gave a serious homily, ten minutes, but with the attitude that he had to give everything he had, because he was so old it could be the last time he preached. He urged the people to say the morning offering and he said, "Every day I do the morning offering. I do it fast, before I get out of bed, because getting out of bed is so darn painful I want to make sure I get credit for it." My friends, that elderly American priest is an Advent person.
Next I'll tell you about a young married couple. They had a habit of saying the Rosary each day and tried to do it before they went to bed. One day, the man came home very late and as he got into bed his wife said, "Did you get your Rosary said?" He said, "No. I didn't have time." She said, "Come on. I'll say it with you." So in bed, together, they prayed the Rosary. And the man never woke up. He died in his sleep. My friends, they were an Advent people.
There was a young woman. She lived a life that included a lot of attention and she was in a position of some power and esteem. She had a well developed faith life and a simple relationship with Christ. She said about herself, "Some people say I'm the greatest thing ever. Some people say I'm the worst person in the world. It was confusing for a while. But then I realised, I'm just me in the middle, and God loves me." This young woman, through the simplicity of her relationship with God, neither swelled up in pride nor descended into shame. She is an Advent person.
Yet another young woman, deeply frustrated, late and stressed, struggled to find the way to open the gas cap of a borrowed car. As she anxiously searched for the button, her frustration and aggravation bubbled over and she tearfully began to kick the car. A gas station attendant, a young man, ran out with his hands out saying, 'Whoa Lady, let me help you'. The woman, deeply grateful sat back in relief while the young man found the lever, opened the flap and filled her tank for her. She, with the greatest humility and gratitude, thanked God for the young man and allowed his kindness to act as a benediction, calming and soothing her. Both of them are Advent people.
What do they all have in common? They are all connected to God, doing His will as best they can and living their commitments with fidelity and dignity. They have hope. They recognise God and they try to live their faith. And that is what God is asking of us. In the Gospel Jesus says, "It is not those who say to me, Lord, Lord, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father."
The question for each one of us is this: What is God's will for me. What is my commitment to God and what does remaining faithful for me, today, at this moment, look like?
We will only find those answers within. Nobody can do this hard work for us. If we do not focus on and live from the Vertical Relationship with Christ, then the plan of Christ, for us and for the world, is at risk. If we drop out of service, the world will feel it. The world will feel our absence from service in many ways, because of the ripple effect of goodness. When one action of kindness is offered, it spreads. When one person is healed, that person goes on to heal others and this is how each of us affects the whole universe when we choose love.
My friends, remember that our Catechism talks about our conscience. People make the mistake of thinking of their conscience as the place where they go to accuse themselves, where they go to be whipped by their failures. People get uncomfortable, afraid. But Christ is not the accuser. He is the consoler. When your conscience is bothering you it is really Jesus saying, 'You need help, Advent person. Come to me so that I can restore your hope, bring you into recovery and replace your wonder'. Our catechism teaches: 'Conscience is mans most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.' (CCC 1795) A sanctuary is a safe place, the safest place. Compare your conscience to the Manger, where the innocent but all powerful infant King is waiting to comfort and protect you. My friends, having experienced purgatory with all of its truth and dignity, I am telling you today that your conscience might just be the only safe place for you while you remain alive.In this month's message, (December 2011), Jesus says, your Infant King comes to you with heavenly hope. He says, I instruct you to bring this hope to others, regardless of the circumstances around you.
So, this Advent, let us flee to the manger. The eyes of the Christ child will be looking for us, with the wisdom of all the ages. And He will give us hope.