Reflection for Sunday, December 5, 1999: 2nd week in Advent.
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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
"Prepare the way of the Lord." We are introduced again to the familiar Advent readings during the liturgy of this second week of Advent. Words like, "repent" and the appearance of John the Baptist heighten a spirit or sense of something about to happen.||Isaiah announces a new theme of "comfort" to the people of Israel. Their time of exile and punishment is ended. This reading should be spoken out loud and very slowly in church and then tasted often by private musing. It is like a spiritual Christmas fruitcake, dense and filled with all kinds of sweet comforts.||We hear John the Baptist in today's gospel fulfilling his role in the drama of Christ's redemptive life. The people of Israel had been waiting and watching for their redeemer, their "comfort" for so long and they hoped that John was the promised one. "One mightier than I is coming after me." John is telling those who came out to check him over that their waiting is how they remain faithful; hoping is not having, but having faith that they will be comforted.|Perhaps we have all waited at an airport or bus stop with initial excitement, but as each plane or bus arrives without discharging our awaited-for, we begin to doubt that we are at the right place or time. WE might feel anger, but at least impatience while other passengers arrive and depart.|Impatience is a healthy and spiritual response. The virtue of patience is experience only within the precondition of the inner-demands of having to wait. We do not wait for something about which we do not care. We wait for promises to be kept, reunions to be enjoyed. The people of Israel knew the promises and had experienced the disunion of the Exile. Their faith, experienced often in their cries for freedom, was counted as their holiness.|The Advent readings and liturgies are calling us to a repentance. I asked a young lad making his first confession with great intensity and devotion, if he was sorry. "For what," was his grieved answer. We do not need an Advent, A Christmas nor a Savior if we do not need any promises from God to be kept. We are invited to repent from our being our own Advent, Christmas and redeemer. We would never say that, perhaps not even to ourselves, but if we do not long for the "one Who comes after," then all we wait for is ourselves to accompany and save us. The repentance is not so much from mortal sin or nasty faults or habits, but for not trusting enough to wait for Jesus to be born in us anew. We are called to repent from giving up on our own holiness which is the promised gift of God.|Every valley will be filled in and every mountain brought down and the crooked way made straight and not merely in Israel, but in the holy land of our lives, but we have to wait and endure the experiences of our mountainous resistances and the depths of our reluctances. We have the opportunity these days to renew our awarenesses of needing a savior. There may be much crookedness to be faced, but there is much of God to go around our mountains and fill in our shallows. Will there be any room in our stables for the crookednesses to be straightened? If we have no one for whom we wait, then we do not even wait for ourselves, or best selves to arrive.|Prepare then, by not feeling sorry, but by sensing the emptiness of our valleys and the ruggedness of our personal mountains. He came to save us, not to solve us.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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