Thursday November 14, 2019
2:00 am
Bishop Hying

Advent calls us to realization that God breaks into our lives at any given moment

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on November 27, 2016

     

      At St. Anthony Parish in Menomonee Falls, Wisc., my first assignment as an associate pastor, I celebrated about 90 weddings a year, so I was always busy doing marriage preparation with engaged couples  essentially my own age.  I loved it! 

      The biggest challenge was helping them to see beyond the excitement and immediacy of the wedding plans and prepare for a life-long sacramental marriage in the Church. Invitations, flowers, the dinner and reception matter, but building a shared life in Christ is the true heart of marriage preparation.

      Advent is a lot like working with engaged couples. Yes, we prepare for Christmas, buying gifts, throwing parties and sending out greeting cards. But the Scripture readings for this season call us to a broader vision of the meaning of Christ’s birth, inviting us to simultaneously look backwards, forwards and around us. We look back to the historical birth of the Lord Jesus 2,000 years ago as a most significant moment when God entered into our world as a human being to save us from sin and death. 

      This Word made Flesh, this incarnation of the Son of God, changed everything, uniting us in the most intimate way with the Lord, opening the way to the Kingdom of God, to redemption, mercy and forgiveness. The Church never stops inviting us to look back to the beginning of Christianity, to the tenderness, humility, love and goodness of the Christ.

      The Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent always speaks about the end of the world, which seems a little jarring. Aren’t we cozily focusing on the Babe of Bethlehem, not cataclysmic events that will mark the Apocalypse? 

      In this Scriptural proclamation, we are to look forward, reminded that Advent is not only about what occurred long ago but also what will happen in the future. Just as Jesus established the reign of God 2,000 years ago, so, too, he will return at the end of time to usher in its fulfillment. We live in this in-between time, confident that our efforts to love, serve, pray, offer mercy and forgiveness, work for justice and goodness make an invaluable contribution to the final form of God’s Kingdom, yet knowing that our human efforts alone are never enough. 

      God’s grace, mercy and power will triumph over the forces of sin and death forever. This final coming of Christ brings to completion his first one.

      Advent also invites us to now look around in the immediacy of the present moment and to recognize the hour of the divine visitation, knowing that God is breaking into our lives on a regular basis if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. 

      What action, attitude, change of heart, risk or surrender is the Lord inviting you to embrace this Advent? We could probably all benefit from more silence, less noise, more peace, less frenzy, more service of the needy, less superfluous shopping, more attention to Scripture, less time on the computer or television. In between the first and the second comings of Christ is the constant Advent of the now, the present moment, the immediacy of the situation, events, responsibilities and people I find myself immersed in.

      Both in Milwaukee and here in Northwest Indiana, I love walking along Lake Michigan, especially at dusk, watching the sunset, observing the emergence of the moon and stars, feeling the healing calm of the waves, viewing the blue horizon over the water. I look up at the heavens and realize that somewhere beyond the stars, beyond space and time, is the mysterious Kingdom of Heaven, our ultimate destiny and home, a relationship with God and others that has already begun but is not yet accomplished, a divine banquet where all human hunger and longing is satisfied, where infinite love will triumph forever, where the Wedding Feast of the Lamb will go on perpetually.

      Just as I once sat for endless hours with hundreds of engaged couples all those years ago, inviting them to look beyond the immediacy of invitation lists, menu choices and dress colors to prepare for a lifetime of marital joy, comm and love in Christ, so too this Advent, God beckons us to sit with him, to momentarily lay aside the shopping lists, party preparations and decorating plans, so that we can listen to the divine voice speaking in the silence, to remove the obstacles that keep us from being free and happy, to envision the Kingdom of God in all of its glory, to ponder the vulnerability and humility of the Christ Child, to prepare ourselves for the Marriage Feast to come. 

      Planning a wedding or preparing for Christmas may seem more urgent, but building a marriage or preparing for the Kingdom is ultimately more satisfying! I pray that you have a joyful, peaceful and prayerful Advent. Don’t let all the busyness keep you too occupied to seek the Lord.  He is looking for us!

 

     + Donald J. Hying

 

     View Bishop Hying’s daily Advent reflections at dcgary.org. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/hying.

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