by Fr. Tommy Lane
Advent. There is something in the air! You can almost feel it. It is not Santa Claus coming to town or shopping or the sales. It is Jesus coming to town, to our own hearts if we welcome him. The very word “Advent” means “arrival” or “coming” and Jesus is the One whose Advent or arrival or coming we await. Jesus will come to us this Advent and Christmas if we make room for him in the inn of our hearts. Jesus is already with us, always with us, but Advent is a time of grace to recognize more than ever that we can have more of Jesus in our lives, that we can make more room for Jesus, that Jesus is the One for whom we really long as the answer to all our longings and questions. Advent is a grace-filled season to spend more time with Jesus to allow him to answer our needs and problems and wishes.
In the first reading from the prophet Baruch (Bar 5:1-9) we heard a description, written many centuries later, of the Jewish people returning to Jerusalem after the terrible pain of their exile when they were driven from Jerusalem and their country and they had to live in Babylon a foreign country and culture. There is great joy in that reading because the Jewish people can once again return home after their exile. That joy is captured in the words of the Psalm, “the Lord has done great things.” Their return again to their homeland, to Zion, to Jerusalem, was so good for them it seemed almost like a dream.
In the Gospel (Luke 3:1-6) the Jewish people are on the move again, this time moving from all over the land of Israel to go to John the Baptist by the river Jordan. Just as those who were exiled had their hopes fulfilled when they returned home to Jerusalem, John the Baptist is announcing that the Jewish hopes for the Messiah will be fulfilled and the people must prepare. Something new and big was happening when John the Baptist baptized all the Jews who came to him. It was new and big because before now the only people who normally were baptized were Gentiles converting to become Jews and their baptism meant a clear break with their past life to begin their new life as Jews. But now all the Jews were coming to John for baptism and even though they did not fully understand, they were preparing for the coming of Jesus by being baptized in the Jordan. What was happening was extraordinary. It meant Judaism was about to be overtaken by something new, Christianity. Christ was coming to fulfill the expectations of Judaism; Christ would be the center of peoples’ lives, not the temple in Jerusalem. So in the first reading and in the Gospel people are on the move for something better, in the first reading on the move for freedom to live again in their own home country and in the Gospel on the move to the Jordan to prepare for the coming of Christ. It was Advent for them, there was something in the air, and they knew it stirred themselves to go on journeys.
For us, Advent is the season when we can stir at least our hearts. John the Baptist was preaching in the desert which did not have the distractions or comforts of civilization so it was the best place to hear God speak. Jesus will come to us this Advent and Christmas if we make room for him in the inn of our hearts, if we create a desert in our lives, if we carve out a place of peace and quiet in the busyness of our lives to give space and time to Jesus every day. Advent is a grace-filled season to spend more time with Jesus to allow him to answer our needs and problems and desires. John the Baptist helped people to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” (Luke 3:4) Luke used a graphic quotation from the prophet Isaiah to describe what was taking place when John was preaching and baptizing by the Jordan; Luke wrote of valleys being filled in, mountains made level, and rough ways made smooth. If that is what took place in the hearts of people coming to John for baptism in the Jordan, for us the valleys to be filled in, the mountains to be made level and the rough ways to be made smooth are in our own hearts. Jesus will come to us this Advent and Christmas if we make room for him in the inn of our hearts, if we create a desert in our lives so that we can hear the voice of God without distractions, if we carve out a place of peace and quiet in the busyness of our lives to give space and time to Jesus every day.
As we make room for Jesus during Advent, we can also make more room for Mary the mother of Jesus. During Advent we also remember Jesus growing in the womb of Mary his mother and our mother. One of the titles we give to Our Lady is Ark of the Covenant. The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant carried the Ten Commandments, the word of God written on stone. Mary is the New Testament Ark of the Covenant as she carried Jesus, the word of God made flesh, in her womb. As the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of the New Covenant, there is nothing more she would want than to bring us closer to her son Jesus, the word of God made flesh whom she carried in her womb. If we have been neglecting to pray the daily Rosary, Advent is a wonderful time to begin again, especially as a family. As we make more room for Jesus in our lives during Advent, we can make more room for Mary and spend time every day with Mary during Advent as she carries Jesus for us. As a mother she brought Jesus into the world, and she is our heavenly mother ready to help us to her son Jesus.
In the first reading the Jews were on the move, returning to Jerusalem after the exile, and in the Gospel all the Jews of Palestine were on the move to John the Baptist by the Jordan. John was in the desert which did not have the distractions or comforts of civilization so it was the best place to hear God speak Advent is a time of grace for us to move our hearts, to recognize more than ever that we can have more of Jesus in our lives, if we create a desert in our lives, carve out a place of peace and quiet in the busyness of our lives. Advent is a grace-filled season to spend more time with Jesus to allow him to answer our needs and problems and wishes, and to allow his mother Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant who carried Jesus the word made flesh in her womb, to bring us to her son Jesus.
© Fr. Tommy Lane 2015
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