‘Before the end, the world will be set quaking. Only when man does not cling to false security will his eyes be capable of seeing the Ultimate’ (Fr. Alfred Delp).
I could see it coming. Annette and I had simmered in sustained disagreement all week. While I prayed time would erase the conflict, Annette knew better. Her unrest mounted and erupted like a lava flow. Ouch. Shakedown. We went at it loudly until we could see eye-to-eye; we recommitted to grow through our uneasy alliance. We shook then settled on the Rock. I hate healthy marriage.
This second Advent Sunday is all about earthshaking events, John-the-Baptist-style, all in prep for the soon-coming-King. Mountains crumble into valleys and raise up low places; all the tumult blazes a sure path through rugged terrain (Is. 40:3-5). This is God’s highway and the way in is the way on: Repent! Make way for the Lord!
By repentance I refer to a person who now wills Christ and Christ alone; God endows her will with a razor-sharp edge.
True repentance strikes me as strange, a paradox of poverty and power. We sicken ourselves and the virus is sustained by obvious hypocrisies surrounding us. We are poor, nearly unable to act. Tremors become quakes and wake us up. Praise God for the weak soul who can only hear and heed one voice!
‘Yes, Lord, I am finally ready: You—Jesus alone!’ The full surrender of repentance to the Child-King requires closing every other door. Completely. Keep that one crack open and nine demons rush in.
With that turning comes the grace of an empowered will. This is nothing less than the baptism of Spirit Jesus imparts to the soul done with her demons (Mk 1:8). Jesus ignites sin-weary souls who turn back. He makes us mighty in route to holiness, supernaturally ‘eager to be found without spot or blemish’ (2 Pet. 3:14).
For me, that involves focusing beyond my weakness. Personal gaps speak truth, in whispers and yelps, but Jesus empowers me in weakness to behold our Church. We seek to save Her. Repentance makes us rich: we experience Her poverty without becoming diminished; we smell death and remain hopeful. That is the way of holiness. Boy, do we need it now.
Our DSM offices are surrounded by a wonderful prayer movement (the International House of Prayer) that dominates the local landscape and is on fire. Rocked by scandal, this prayer furnace now burns to expose and purify her very efforts. And our Pope Francis? By rescinding the housing of good friend Cardinal Burke—one of America’s best, kindest churchmen—Francis shows us that his version of synodality (walking and listening together) applies only to those who share his narrow progressivism. Ugh. Unbefitting of a pope. Or any Christian.
We don’t look because we don’t want to see. Isaiah 40:1-2, 11 helps us who repent, however weak our start. The coming of Jesus brings comfort—reminds us that in exchange for all our sins, He gives us a double portion of His favor, as generous to the repentant prodigal as He is to the elder son, rigorous and entitled.
The One both Isaiah and John the Baptist declares is more tender than Mary and the fiercest of protectors: He ‘like a shepherd feeds His flock, in His arms He gathers the lambs—carrying them in His bosom. He leads ewes (mother sheep) with care’ (v.11). He uses His power to shield the most important and vulnerable (nursing mothers). Who is like our God? The more we know Him, the more we love Him. Turning to the Truth in our shaking only makes sense.
Know thyself: our generosity and fidelity hinges upon the One who carries us. You are truest in His arms.
‘Shall we continue to look at thousands of things that we don’t like—things that we know should not be and must not be—and still stand unshaken and unmoved? To this message of being shaken, Advent adds a new word—authenticity. We who encounter the Ultimate must let go of every compromise. All that survives is authentic. All cheap negotiations shatter there, all half-truths, all double meanings, all masks and poses shatter there. Only what is authentic stands’ (Delp, Advent Homily, Munich, Dec. 7, 1941).