The best way to prepare for His coming
Third Sunday of Advent, Dec. 16, 2012 (3AdvC)
By Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA
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A very successful and well-known businessman who was also an adviser to governments was being interviewed on radio. He told the interviewer that he owed most of his success to a teacher he had in school. This teacher did not just teach him the usual school subjects but also introduced him to the wider world of art, culture, psychology and creative thinking. Above all he greatly encouraged him to strive to achieve what the man felt was beyond his powers.
Later on when he became very successful on a number of levels he would visit his former teacher from time to time. But because he stayed in the background and did not seek the limelight for himself, nobody knew about the teacher apart from his famous student.
To make way, or even just make room, for another person calls for humility and generosity of spirit. Very often people like you who are parents spend the best years of your lives preparing your children, in the sense of opening them to life. But the time comes when parents have to withdraw so that their children can come into their own.
In the gospel today we meet the figure of John the Baptist. Obviously John’s appearance in the Jordan area and the fact that he was seen to be a holy man caused the people to think that he might be the expected Messiah. Here was a great temptation for John to take advantage of his position and become famous. But he refused to take advantage of his situation and flatly denies he is the Messiah. He tells the people the one they await is coming and John declares he is not even worthy to undo the strap of his sandals. The one to come will be he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit and with the fire of purification.
The people asked John ‘what must we do to prepare for the One who is to come?’ He tells them that it is in their daily life situations that they are expected to act honestly and peaceably for the good of their neighbours as each of us is.
Christianity is a very practical religion and good deeds on behalf of others and not taking advantage of another is the best way to prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas and at the end of time. What are the obstacles that must be removed from our lives to prepare well for Christ’s coming to us at Christmas? As we celebrate Advent let’s ask: Where is it bringing me?
Of course, the great Good News is that when Jesus came he did not take advantage of who he was to seek power, wealth and fame. The amazing thing is that Jesus is mirroring a God whose last thought is to punish or chastise us if we don’t keep his commandments and laws perfectly.
God will not take advantage of being God to punish us. God who is Love cannot punish as a response to our failures. Sin carries its own inbuilt punishment. This is the great good news of Christianity. Are the words of the first reading from the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah how we image God? : ‘God will exult with joy over you; he will renew you with his love. He will dance with shouts of joy for you as on a day of festival’.
Each of us is called to have a deep, personal relationship with Jesus. As it says after the consecration in Eucharistic Prayer 2 ‘we thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you’. If God who knows our weaknesses and failings as well as our positive side counts us worthy then that is great and should be enough for us.
Today is known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’, The name comes from the opening line of the Latin version of today’ second reading, - ‘Rejoice’ or ‘Be happy’. It is important that we realise that this joy does not depend on external circumstances, but the nearness of God. Paul is directing us to that deep, lasting, life-giving joy that is the hallmark of God’s presence. And who among us doesn’t want to have a deep joy in our lives? We mustn’t equate joy or happiness with pleasure. Pleasure is more of the body, joy of the spirit. One can quickly become tired of pleasure, but one never becomes tired of joy.
By continually turning to God in every situation, as St. Paul suggests, our hearts and our thoughts are guarded by God’s peace. The pains of life that can afflict us don’t just disappear because we pray, but they do loosen their grip on us. The struggle remains but there is an underpinning of a deeper peace.
We are preparing for the Lord’s coming at Christmas. And we have no doubt but that he will come and bring gifts to us. But he doesn’t only come at Christmas. He comes to us always, and at the oddest times and places and wearing different disguises. He comes to us in the person in need. Advent advises us to prepare a way for the Lord. There is no better way to prepare than to be welcoming to those in need. The way to find peace, happiness and goodness is not to think of ourselves always but to love others also.
St. Benedict advises us to begin every task by asking God’s help. Every day amid difficulties and problems, there are small gifts coming our way from the hand of God and remembering these and giving thanks is a tremendous antidote to envy and bitterness.
It seems that the key of it all is found in those insights we find scattered through today’s liturgy of the word: ‘The Lord is in your midst’. ‘Great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel’.’The Lord is my strength, my song’. The Lord is very near’.
“Lord Jesus, give us the Holy Spirit to share with others whatever we can as we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives this Christmas and indeed each day’.