GREETINGS! And Happy New Year! That’s Church speak - it’s the first Sunday of Advent, and we begin a new Liturgical Year (Church Year) today. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/113008.shtml . Thanks as always for reading and all your comments! God Bless - Fr. Jim
So the other day I get a voice mail on my cell phone. It might seem hard to believe that it came from a friend of mine because the message said something along the line "Hey Jim, first of all, let’s talk about that outgoing message of yours. You say ‘hey this is Jim, I’m not in right now’ - Idiot - I’m calling you on your cell phone, we know you’re not ‘in’ right now, it’s why I’m calling you on your CELL PHONE. It’s a good thing you’re cute because you sure ain’t bright."
After that unprovoked attack, I had to call back and say "well the reason I have that message is because it’s nicer than saying "Hey this is Jim, I’m screening my calls right now because I’m not sure I really want to talk to you."
I don’t really "screen my calls" - shocking as it might be for some of my friends to believe - sometimes the reason I don’t answer my cell phone is that – I might be out, or that I might actually be busy. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to face facts. The sad reality that for most of us, there are people we don’t want to see - there are people we don’t want to deal with... so we try to put them off as long as possible.
We get that voice mail, and we try to figure out when the other person will be out so that we can just leave them a voice mail message back and not have to actually talk to them at all. Hey I guess we keep missing each other - catch you at some point!
Even from the relative safe confines of your computer - we might not want to deal with someone virtually. You have those emails you just don’t want to respond to right away. You know you have too at some point, and you might even leave them marked as "unread" in your email Inbox just so you don’t forget, but even typing a response back seems to require a greater amount of energy and effort than they should.
Then there are the actual moments where you have human interaction with a person you're trying to avoid! Maybe even at Thanksgiving Dinner this past week or there’s another family gathering coming up where there’s a part of you that dreads the holiday celebration because "so-and-so" is going to be there and you don’t know what to say, don’t know how to deal with "so-and-so" for any number of reasons.
Often times these "realities" exist because we’re not in a right relationship with the person. There’s been some fight, there’s been some difficulty, some tension - something unresolved that makes us hesitate - or even worse - simply dread this other person and causes us to want to put them off as long as possible.
Where would Jesus fall? If Jesus was calling . . . well, actually, it should be - when Jesus does call us, when Jesus does come to us, do we welcome Him in – like the savior we long for or do we want to dodge Him, put Him off, stall Him just a little bit longer?
Advent is a season that the Church asks us how do we welcome Jesus in our world? During this season, we look back and remember that first time in history some 2000 years ago with His birth that first Christmas. Back then, there are stories told (which we will hear about closer to Christmas) of how some people spent their entire lives longing for that day - their lives were consumed with that yearning to see the birth of the Messiah. And at the very same time there were others who felt threatened by His birth and would do almost anything to destroy the infant King.
But Advent also reminds us that Jesus will come again to judge all humanity at the end of the world. To prepare us for that unknown day and hour, we are challenged to reflect on how Jesus comes into our lives every day - in the Word, in the Eucharist and in one another.
So going back to that question - when Jesus comes to us, how do we treat that encounter? Is He someone we long for or someone we dodge? Because if He is someone we are in a right relationship with, then these readings today don’t unsettle us. If that’s the case, when Jesus says watch! in the gospel, we have the anticipation of a little kid waiting on Christmas night for Santa to come. We long for Jesus’ return. We yearn for Him... Jesus’ can’t come back soon enough.
But many of us when we hear things like the Second coming of Christ - we are unsettled by it. There’s an element of fear. And if that’s the case, the readings today are jarring. We want Jesus to hold off a little longer - we’re not ready for Him to come in glory. We want to dodge that phone call just a little bit longer.
And if we find ourselves in that state of mind, the season of Advent is a great opportunity to do some soul searching and ask ourselves, why?
Are we living our lives in such a way that we don’t want Christ to enter in and see the mess? Maybe there’s some sinful ways, attitudes or actions that I don’t want Him to see, that I still haven’t dealt with... Jesus, don’t come in here yet...
Or maybe He’s been knocking at the doors of our hearts to consider a specific task he’s asking you to do, a specific call He has just for you. Because we’re comfortable with our life as it is (or as we imagine it should be) we want to dodge Him again. Maybe He’ll go knock on someone else’s door.
It’s easy for all of us fall into those feelings and attitudes from time to time. And when we do, we reverse the words of the first reading - we start to think that we are the Potter and will fix our own clay anyway we want to - instead of realizing how God has his fingerprints all over each of us. He’s molded us, and the more we co-operate with Him, welcome Him, allow Him to challenge us - He’ll continue to mold and change us into our truest selves.
That’s what Advent is all about. How will we prepare to welcome Jesus into the world. Will we take His call?