‘Advent is the time of the promise, not the fulfillment.’ Fr. Alfred Delp
Adele fever is back. Her new album ‘30’ is selling faster than any other this year, and she’s rocking a super-model makeover and new boyfriend who she claims freed her ‘to love herself and to become open to loving and being loved…’ In the same interview, she attributes her recently divorced husband and child with ‘saving her life’ and the substance of her commitment to an intact family.
Breaking up that family, she replied, resulted from realizing: 'I was like, "I am not happy."' Ok, she’s a singer, not a philosopher. Yet her morality mirrors and adds melody to ours.
Advent is for Adele and the rest of us inclined to gorgeous riffs that provoke our discontent with the status quo and wonder who to lose to gain ‘happiness.’ That results in new selves and new loves who cheer the evolution until we morph once more. The trouble is that we never turn in a vacuum: there are kids and covenants and oh yeah, the truth that marriage is indissoluble (Mt 19:3-9). That’s right: our ‘I dos’ persist and keep glaring on our adulterous getaways, til death do us part.
John the Baptist cares about Adele’s unhappiness. He is the fiery figure in today’s Gospel reading (Lk 3:1-6) who respects people enough to call us to do something good with our distress. Repent. Not a bad word. It means to turn from sin and toward God.
Specifically, because what we see and feel and do now distresses us, turn toward the One who made all and will redeem all and who in the meantime fills us with His very essence. That frees us to wait.
Waiting is hard. Repentance does not mean everything changes. It requires our change, that we exercise moral authority (the gift and bummer of bearing His image). It means staying true to what is real, however frustrating. It means refusing other lovers and waiting for the One who promised to come and set us free in a way that no created being can.
That’s rough. At this point in our Advent journey, we know Jesus is coming with a vengeance in the second round but first He comes meekly. He’s just not come yet. We do what we can now: entrusting the discontents we can see to Him whom we cannot. I’ll take it. For Adele that might/could mean returning to her husband and repairing a broken home.
I cast no stone at her. My sin was way worse. I gave my body to countless guys resulting in no new life, just countless fractures. The Spirit quickened my repentance and I bargained: ‘You take the lust away God and I will close the door.’ ‘Close the door,’ was all He said, over and over. Dang. He wanted my allegiance, not my ease. The Spirit helped me in my weakness. In closing the door on that unreality, I began to flesh out John the Baptist’s invite to ‘repent for the forgiveness of sins’ and so ‘prepare the way of the Lord.’
We wait in hope that ‘all flesh may see the salvation of the Lord’ (Lk 3:6).