Advent 1: Waking The Ache
‘The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.’ (Rom. 13:11)
‘Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come…You must be prepared, for the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.’ (Matt. 24: 42, 44)
One of my sons recently told me why he stopped smoking marijuana: ‘Pot de-motivated me. I guess I just got sick of living a “checked out” life. It was time to face reality.’
Advent wakes us up to Reality. The first readings warn us of our tendency to dull ourselves with mundane stuff, from domestic cares to carousing and orgies. St. Paul and Jesus rouse us: ‘Don’t check out this Advent!’ We busy ourselves for good and evil but either way, we can use activity to numb ourselves from some hard realities. Life can be merciless; we each have our drugs of choice. But the pain awaits us every morning. Why wake up at all?
That is the good news of Advent. God has come. Reality has broken into our little reality and wants our attention. We can know of His coming in three ways (special thanks to Fr. Don Farnan for these pithy phrases): the God who came in history (Baby Jesus), the God who comes now in mystery (Word, Eucharist, Spirit, Body-Life), and the God who will come again in majesty. His first Advent occurred with stunning, silent vulnerability; His second Advent will be swift, violent, and conclusive in judgment. Scriptures from the first Sunday of Advent urge us to ponder His return: to be watchful and ready for Him at all times.
That is a call to welcome Him deeply, to wait with the very One we wait for! Our Christian life is one suspended between two Advents and sustained by the very One for whom we yearn. We forsake busyness and other drugs in order to abide in that ache: at once grateful for His Presence yet longing for full consummation. God helps us in our weakness. We must lay down mundane realities long enough to abide in Reality.
Advent invites us into the deeper, truer ache that unites us with Jesus: our past, present, and future. Gerald May writes: ‘To live as a child of God is to live with longing, aching for a love that is never quite within our grasp. As attachments lighten and idols fall, we will enjoy increasing freedom. At the same time our hearts will feel an even greater purer ache. That pain is one that never leaves us.’ It will be satisfied only when we see Him face-to-face. Even so Lord, come.