Gospel Reflections

1st Sunday of Advent

Luke 21:25-28,34-36

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Jo-Ann Flora

Published: November 29, 2015

The neighborhood is Soho in lower Manhattan. The location is Spring Street, a block from our house. The time is early morning. The daily sight – a very long line that winds around the block, probably about 100 people, mostly young professionals and university students. They come from all over town to a famous little bakery, Dominique Ansel, known for its cronut, a tasty blend of a croissant and a donut that was created a few years ago and costs $5.00. Only one batch is baked each morning, so those at the end of the line wonder if they will make it into the bakery before the supply runs out. Occasionally I pass by this line on my way to another destination, and I notice that these folks look a little bored, not so invested in what they are doing, as if their long sought pastry will not really make a difference in their lives that day. Waiting out on the street for a $5.00 pastry early on a weekday morning, especially in mid-winter, certainly does not interest me. It would not make my day.

But what does interest me? For what will be worth a wait for me? What will make a difference in my life on any given day? What is the quality of my waiting? These are good questions for the beginning of Advent, aren’t they?

Today we are reminded of St. Bernard’s beautiful sermon on the three comings of Christ: “We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two.” The third is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming, Jesus is seen on earth, dwelling among men and women; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming, when each person meets God, is a hidden one. In this coming, only the elect see the Lord in this meeting, and each person is saved ... Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ is our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, Jesus Christ is our rest and consolation.”

Each Advent, we rouse ourselves to remember the first coming of Christ and are put in touch with the experience of those who waited long centuries for him to enter our world as one of us. Throughout our whole lives we wait in hope, and we stay by our loved ones in their precious last days, for that final coming when Christ will take each one of us to himself for all eternity. It is the middle coming of Christ which is the most imminent, the most alive, the one that keeps us grounded in the now. As St. Bernard explains, it is the hidden coming, the one that lies between the other two, the one in which we ourselves will see Christ. This coming is like a road on which we travel from his first coming to his final coming. This second coming is the one in which we find Christ as our rest and consolation.

Also, on our journey, the moment by moment comings of Christ in the midst of our daily lives are well worth the wait. They make the difference in any given day. They command our attention and call us to a quality of waiting that is active and vigilant. In her book When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd writes, “Waiting is both passive and passionate. It’s vibrant, contemplative work. It means descending into self, into God, into the deeper labyrinths of prayer. It involves listening to the disinherited voices within, facing the wounded holes in the soul, the denied and the undiscovered, the places one lives falsely. It means struggling with the vision of who we really are in God and molding the courage to live that vision.”

In our waiting, we realize that it is God who first longs for us, in us and through us. The quality of our waiting for these small comings of Christ and the way we respond to each one give profound meaning to our lives and lead us on the pathway to union with and transformation into Christ. In The Naked Now, Richard Rohr reminds us of how the Hindu Vedas speak of the spiritual wisdom of divine union, called Tat Tvam Asi. This Sanskrit phrase has a few translations:

YOU are That!
You ARE what you seek!
THOU art That!
THAT you are!
You are IT!

That which we long for, we also are. In fact, that is the interior place from which the longing comes. During this Advent, let us stay attentive to the events around us, signaling that something wondrous is about to happen. Let us be fully invested in our waiting. Let us wait with expectant and hopeful hearts and with joyful anticipation for Christ, who first waits and longs for us.

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