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First Sunday in Advent, Nov. 27, 2011 (1AdvB)
By Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S.
Look at your Nativity set. Around the Christ Child you see four people or groups: Mary, Joseph, the wise men and the shepherds. We are all around the Christ Child, defined by our relationship to Him; we are all Marys, Josephs, wise men or shepherds. Aside from the reflection on each Sunday, we shall reflectively consider these people as well. They were after all the ones most prepared to enter the mstery of the nativity.
Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the Ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.
Waiting for God is an active, alert—yes, joyful—waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.
Actions prompted by our inclination clearly do not involve an effort of will. In our acts of obedience to God we are passive; whatever difficulties we have to surmount, however great our activity may appear to be, there is nothing analogous to muscular effort; there is only waiting, attention, silence, immobility, constant through suffering and joy. We cannot take a single step toward heaven. It is not in our power to travel in a vertical direction. If however we look heavenward for a long time, God comes and takes us up. He raises us easily.
Cardinal Newman reflects on Advent: “They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him, who look for him in all that happens, and who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once . . . This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first.
Jesus said to his disciples: 'Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake!...You do not know when the Master of the house is coming.'" O Jesus, your voice sounds through the house of my world: Be on your guard! Stay awake!
Yet I hardly hear you. Busy with so much, I go about the things I do like a servant trapped in household routine, hardly giving a thought to what my life is about. My spirit within has grown tired and you, my God, seem far away. How can I hear your voice today? Speak to my heart during this season of grace, as you spoke to your prophets and saints. Remind me again of the journey you call me to make and the work you would have me do. I am your servant, O Lord. Speak to me in this holy season and turn my eyes to watch for your coming.
A - WISE MEN still seek Him,” reads the bumper sticker.
Fools think they are wise, so they do not search. The three wise men go on a pilgrimage, on a search, because they know they are not wise. Just as saints know they are sinners but sinners think they are saints, good people do not call themselves “good people” and wise men do not call themselves wise. Thus, the wise seek. And all seekers find, according to our Lord’s own promise. But only seekers find. If the wise man in us will travel far from home, comfort and security, then we may arrive at Bethlehem.
The wise men came from “the East,” the land of the rising sun, the symbol of hope. Any pilgrimage we begin in seeking God, in any part of our lives, is undertaken for this motive. Hope is one of the three most necessary things in the world. Hope is our energy, our trigger, our motive power.
They came — a long, dangerous journey. But nothing is more dangerous than missing Christ. Life itself is a journey, a pilgrimage. The wise men come to worship, just as the shepherds do. That’s why they are wise; not because they know the means, the way, but because they know the end; not because they lift their heads to the stars but because they bow their knees to the Baby. Wisdom is not the pride of cleverness in knowledge, but the humility of holiness. “The fear of the Lord, that is the beginning of wisdom.”
They sit at Jesus’ feet. They know the end of their pilgrimage. They know the ultimate purpose of human existence; adoration of God and love of man in Christ, the God-man. They bring gifts. They open their treasures. Some of us have rich talents to bring to Christ; others, like the shepherds, have only themselves, their poverty, their work. What matters is not what we give but whether we give, how much we give (all, like the widow’s pence), and how we give (freely, “for God loves a cheerful giver”).
“They returned praising God,” for they came seeking God. As St. Augustine says in the last, great sentence of his “Confessions”: “They that seek the Lord shall find Him, and they that find Him shall praise Him.” The wisdom-seeking wise man in us, the heart, can praise God too.
What do you seek in your life? God becomes the very desire you seek, the very longing you have. For He is all in all!
O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,
desire of every nation, Savior of all peoples,
come and dwell among us.