Sunday, December 23, 2018
Fourth Sunday in Advent
I came across something that Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote about the season of Advent, and it really caught my attention. Here are his thoughts:
“Even though Advent comes but once a year in the liturgical calendar, the older I get, the more I’m convinced that life is all about Advent – all about the coming of Christ to us.
“She awaits word from her physician on the results of the biopsy of the ‘growth’ taken from her body, fearful ‘it’ has come back…That’s Advent.
“He watches daily for the mail, looking for word from the university where he applied, wondering if he has been accepted…He’s in Advent.
“They sit helpless next to their two-year-old’s hospital bed, wondering if and when the child will regain consciousness after his fall down the basement steps…They’re in Advent.
“He is exhausted from praying for a job, having begged God hour after hour, day after day, these past four months of unemployment, as he replies to the most recent want ad, knowing his savings and benefits are almost gone for his wife and kids…He’s in Advent.
“She’s at the end of a long line, all her belongings in two plastic garbage bags, and she is fearful that the beds will all be taken on this freezing night by the time she gets to the door of the shelter…She’s in Advent.
“He wonders if he can make it through the evening. He wants a drink so bad. It’s been three months since his last one, three months of sobriety, one step at a time, and he can sense himself falling…He’s in Advent.
“He kisses her gently on the forehead, as the hospice caregivers have told him it’s over, and he realizes her nine years of Alzheimer’s have come to an end. Her Advent is over, his will continue and so will ours.
“Waiting, longing, hoping, watching, yearning, expecting…seems like that’s what life is all about. Life is an Advent.”
Words from Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Pope Benedict XVI, when he was a much younger priest known as Father Joseph Ratzinger, gave some talks on Advent to some college students in Germany. He said: “We are apt to think of Advent as a season that exists before Christ, while we now exist after Christ.” But then, Father Ratzinger goes on:
“It is Advent. The first thing to accept is this reality of an enduring Advent. If we do, we shall begin to realize that the borderline between ‘before Christ’ and ‘after Christ’ does not run simply through historical time – it runs through our hearts. If we are living on a basis of selfishness, of egoism, then even today we are ‘before Christ.’
“But in this time of Advent, let us ask the Lord to grant that we may live less and less ‘before Christ’ – and certainly not ‘after Christ’ – but truly ‘with Christ and in Christ’: with Him who is indeed Christ yesterday, today and forever.”
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we get ready to celebrate the first coming of Christ with His birth in Bethlehem on Christmas.
Today’s Gospel is the scene of the second Joyful Mystery: the Visitation. Mary, pregnant with Jesus, goes to visit her older relative, Elizabeth, to assist her with her pregnancy with John the Baptist.
When Mary arrives, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and she is the first person to announce the arrival of the Messiah: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Bishop Fulton Sheen put it so well so many years ago when he said that the Incarnation, the Word of God becoming flesh, continues after Mary.
God through His angel said to Mary, “Would you be willing to give a human nature to my Divine Eternal Son? Would you be willing to allow My Son, the Word, to take flesh in your womb?” And Mary said, “Yes. I am the handmaid of the Lord.”
Bishop Sheen says that Incarnation continues, that God asks each one of us the same question: “In your living, in all you say and do, will you allow My Word to take flesh in you?” And we say, “Yes.” And like Mary, we carry Christ to others.
Advent is all about Christ coming to us – at Bethlehem, at the end of time, and right now. He is with us, and like Mary, we carry Him in our lives to others.
“I am the servant of the Lord,” Mary said to the angel Gabriel. “Let it be done to me just as you say.” Come, Lord Jesus. Come!