The theme of Advent week #1 was “Hope,” week #2 was “Love,” and this week we have “Joy” or “Rejoicing.”
The readings at mass this past week have been about (for the first reading) the words of the prophets to the people of God and (in the Gospel) St. John the Baptist.
I think it’s an interesting blend to see.
I was thinking about this all week…as I ran my neighbor’s dog, as I answered emails. And I’m thinking about it in two contexts.
The first one is this idea of “Hope.” Our God is a God who (as our readings this week state) will come to save us, comfort us, dwell among us, TAKE US BY THE HAND AND HELP US (great reading, btw), etc. And I’m all like, “Yes, yes, yes. Thank you!”
I found a mini-note from one of Fr. Ryan’s talks in my journal. The note said that the difference between other gods and our God is that, while we might seek other gods, our God SEEKS US. That is what Advent and Jesus are all about–a God who seeks us.
Cue the straight-up Hallelujah chorus, right??
But wait! There’s so much more good news, guys.
The Gospel readings have been talking about John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus, born to proclaim Jesus’ arrival to the world.
We hear about John the Baptist’s parents, too, though. They were holy people, people who loved and worshiped God. However, his mother, Elizabeth, had never had a child.
It’s interesting to think about. Think about Elizabeth and Zechariah as courting lovers, talking about their devotion to the God of Israel; and then as newlyweds, happily planning for a family.
And yet…she didn’t have a family. She couldn’t.
Month after month she prayed, but was disappointed, sorrowful, hurt, dejected.
It’s sad, really.
But then, the angel announces to Zechariah this good news! She will be with child! Years after they had ever expected!
You know what I love about this? That God sent John the Baptist as a part of a large plan for all of humanity. God is thinking big-picture by sending His Son and John to herald Jesus.
And yet, God sees the individual, personal dreams and prayers as well. Humanity needed John the Baptist, and he was sent. And, there was a faithful woman in Israel who had prayed for a son for years…who received a positive answer to her prayer.
God can be so personal.
I started writing this on Friday to introduce this third week of Advent, a week of joy.
I wanted to point out that from this HOPE that God would save us and His LOVE of us individually results in songs of JOY.
And then, I heard news of the Connecticut tragedy.
And I couldn’t write anymore.
How can one cover the concept of joy in the face of this gut-wrenching sorrow?
I don’t really know. I went to my notes from last year’s retreat to read the entry on “Joy” by Fr. Anthony. Beautiful thoughts, but no match for the sorrow.
And then I realized: I’m usually on retreat for the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Good golly. Every year, right after we acknowledge the wonder of God-with-us and then, within the octave, we’re remembering the massacre of children…killed because of someone’s fear and jealousy.
IT’S SO SAD. It’s sad because it’s a level of stupid that means innocent people won’t be able to experience their full lives on this earth because someone else couldn’t appreciate their humanity.
And guess what else? (Spoiler alert) John the Baptist gets beheaded.
The world is still broken.
This is not what I want. I want to write things like “hope” and “love” and “joy” and have it mean straight-up Martha Stewart CHRISTMAS MORNING where everyone sings songs and opens presents and eats food.
But, it doesn’t mean that. There is still pain. It’s still broken.
And yet, John preaches of Jesus with rejoicing.
This is all I know: Jesus could have removed our suffering. But instead he JOINED us in ours.
Baby Jesus is born to helpless people in a borrowed barn in the cold of the night.
Arise, shine, for thy light is come.
Why joy? Because the true God exists…and He loves us.
This and nothing else.
We rejoice because God has intervened. He is faithful and He cares for us.
Yeah, things are still broken on huge levels of broken. But, let us still pray with HOPE because we still believe that God wills good to happen. Let us still join in LOVE because we are known and cared for deeply. Let us stand in JOY because, by golly, things are wounded and ugly but we have a God-with-us God who cries in a stable and announces to shepherds that there is a savior.
Yesterday night we started a new set of prayers for the week. Here we have the reflection:
This is our Advent, our time to seek and find the Lord in our midst.
Rejoice. Not because things are perfect, but because God is with us.