“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord”, is what we read out today in our responsorial psalm. Perhaps here the verb “let’s go” can be a bit misleading. Do we need to ‘go’ to the house of the Lord, or are we already on our way? In a sense, all of us are on “their way” already. Yes, there are different degrees to how farther one has arrived – but one never starts from scratch in approaching God. God has reached out to all of us, and we all accept and reject Him in our different ways, in different degrees. The question we need to ask ourselves today is: “where have I arrived on my path toward the house of the Lord”? What place am I in at the moment? What has my history with the Lord consisted in? And, how am I looking toward the future – does Jesus play a central role in it?
“Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand”. This verse marks our celebration and our beginning of the Advent period! Of course, it isn’t solely during this period that salvation is near – for Jesus is near us always – but this period acts a practical guide to reminding us of where we are going, who Jesus is, the love that God has for us, our fragility, our smallness, and, not least, our potential divinity through grace! This Advent period opens us to realities that are always there yet which life sometimes has the habit of obscuring. This is why, in the second reading, Paul warns us to be awake. If anything, therefore, let us allow this period to open our eyes again – let us focus our eyes and our heart on the candle which burns brightly and which is Jesus himself! A candle that is there always – deep in our hearts – amidst all doom.
In the gospel, Jesus warns us not to be unprepared, as people were in the days of Noah. How prepared are we? Can one ever be prepared enough? Perhaps not! But this should not be a cause of worry. Self-perfection is not what God is calling us toward. What Jesus wants is not the self-perfected human, but the person who, amidst all fragility and sin, amidst all failure and imperfection, is able to remain open and humble to His love, healing, and forgiveness. It is not about ‘never failing’, but about willingly allowing ourselves to be healed and guided by our Lord – time and time again. This is what it means to be awake. It means to know what is important and what is less important. It means to know how to be humble and how to receive. It means to make the time to discover ourselves in relation to our creator – reflecting upon our capacity to love others and ourselves.
Jesus was born because Mary said “yes” to the Father and because Mary was open to trusting the Father with her life! Are we willing to do that? Are we being like Mary? Only in being like her, can we hope to receive Jesus truly in each of our hearts. This is a journey in which we’re helped and guided – a journey in which the Father himself reaches out to us. Precisely, Advent is one way in which God reaches out to us. Let us make the most of this invitation. We also need to reach back – in our own ways. Let’s try, starting from today. Trying is all we can do!”take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehem’s of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present” – Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac