Advent 1 (2013)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
Friends: The moment you walked into church today you probably noticed that something was different; there seemed to be a kind sober-somber atmosphere hinted at by the color violet of the banners and in the priest’s vesture. “Ah, it must be Advent season” you say to yourself. Indeed it is. Here we are again having made a 360 degree circle all the way from last Advent to this one. One may have the sense, even, that in church we seem to keep going round and round and never getting anywhere! Well, not quite true; it does not seem to me that we are going in circles. I would characterize liturgical time more as straight out, as it were. This is the way life itself seems to us, does it not? The cosmos had to start from somewhere; time is perceived as having a beginning and an end; our life begins at birth and ends at death; the day begins with dawn and ends with sunset; we go to work in the morning and return in the evening. All life, it seems, is a matter of beginngs and endings and there is no stopping in-between; (at least it seems so to us).
The evidence for this seems to be the way we spend our days: we struggle to be on time, to do as much as possible in the hours we have in this day or week, or month or year. We are clocked in and clocked out; we are docked if we are late but not rewarded if we are early. In short we have only so much time to accomplish whatever it is we are assigned to do. If you think about it long enough, it almost drives you mad.
On the other hand, given the evidence of time, the sense that we live in the midst of time and place, we must learn somehow to cope with this reality. Indeed, there is a certain satisfaction knowing that we have done something worthwhile in and for the world in the limited time that we have.
Speaking from a theological point of view, we realize that all time is God-time; a space or slot of time allotted to us for doing good. Again speaking theologically, think of this: Is it not true that Jesus Christ, son of Mary, Son of the eternal Father, was given only so much time to do what his vision of life directed him to do?
Jesus was born in time, lived in time and died, sadly, in time. In the meantime, given his limits, he preached to people the reality of the kingdom of God, the way the world could be if God had his way with it. Obviously, Jesus did not accomplish all that he hoped to accomplish in his 33 or so years of life, but he did what he could. Unfortunately, even the world somehow put limits on Jesus’ hopes. Is that not true of us as well? We all have great plans for what we will do with our life, but only a small percentage of those are ever accomplished. That’s life whether we like it or not.
So, given those parameters, what shall we do with our life? We shall do all we can with our God-given talents to make this world an image of God’s kingdom. We shall try our best to meet Christ on the way of life and fulfill what is still missing in Christ’s body (a quote from Saint Paul).
So, the question is always, where do we meet Jesus along the way? Where is Christ standing at the crossroads, beckoning us to follow him? Contrary to what we might first imagine, it is not necessarily in church although this is surely a fire-tried experience: there is Christ in the Word, well proclaimed and preached, where Christ in the Eucharist is found and celebrated in the bread broken and the cup poured out for us.
But for many people, folks who have the good sense to be alert, sensitive and quiet, Christ is met on our own terms: at a moment at noon-hour when we are eating our sandwich and drinking our up of coffee; Christ is met when we shut off NPR in the evening on the way home from work so that Christ will be heard more clearly and truly.
Contrary to what may seem odd to us, Christ can be met on our own time and on our own terms…the terms we choose. After all, it’s our time, right? In some sense, in those moments of quiet Jesus Christ may be heard saying: “Y’all have a couple minutes to talk?”
So, that, in part, is what I believe Jesus is teaching us in this new season of Advent. Given that our lives are going from here to there, surely there must be some time along the way where Christ can be met. I would like to believe that Christ walks along our way, walks the same road as we do.
So, on this first Sunday of Advent, don’t let anyone tell you that we are simply going around in circles. The beginning is already behind us; our destination is still in front of us. And so, here we are together on the way with home not yet on the horizon.