Saturday, November 29, 2008


(1st Sunday of Advent, B)

Many times we hear and we act like this short season of Advent is a time of ‘waiting and preparation for Christmas.’ But that’s only part of the story. Yes, Advent is the time when we await the arrival of the Lord, and so this certainly means that we use this time to prepare ourselves to recall his first coming to us in his Nativity in Bethlehem. But just as we look back to the Lord’s historical birth, we also look forward to his arrival again at the end of time, the Second Coming. So the Advent season has this double character; we look back and prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth among us in history, but we also look forward to the Arrival that will mark the fulfillment and the goal of history and creation.

In fact, during this time of Advent I think we reflect and dwell on the nature of God as just that, adventitious. Our God is a God who arrives, who appears, who comes to dwell in our lives. I think we’ve all had the spiritual experience of suddenly becoming aware of God’s presence or action in the midst of a difficult situation, or maybe in a moment of quiet and solitude. This is the arriving God. I think we experience God this way because we exist in time, but God is eternal. So there is no before or after with God; there is nothing that God is doing tomorrow that he is not doing now. With God there is only a Now, a nunc stans¸ as the scholastic theologians liked to say.

This is why the presence of God of God always seems new and fresh, and is refreshing for the soul, because God is always Now. This arriving presence in our hearts is the real desire of our souls—a desire we so often squander on things that are less than God and will not satisfy. We get this in the reading from Isaiah we hear today—he is the great prophet of Advent because he is the prophet of longing for the renewal of the presence of God among his people. He cries out, “Return, for the sake of your servants.” That’s the real desire at the root of our humanity, the longing for the presence of God.

This presence of God which arrives in the soul is the soul’s true giftedness, as we hear today from St. Paul. It is God’s desire to come and dwell in our hearts and minds, if only we will prepare a place for him. When we do, we open ourselves up to a spiritual giftedness and will make us ready that day when the Lord himself returns in glory.

So as Jesus commands in the gospel today, let us watch. Let us quiet down our voices and our thoughts, so that we might be alert in prayer to the arrival of the Lord of our lives, ready to greet him when we comes to make his home in us. The mysterious and eternal God who is beyond anything we can say and more than anything we can think, seeks a dwelling in each human life, and wants to become the peace and giftedness of each soul. Let’s begin again, for the first time, to wait for the God who wants to speak the Word of his own self from within each of us.

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