“Can you hear it now?”
Last Sunday I talked to you about the need to stop, to look and to listen Advent’s call to “to step down from the squirrel cage of daily living and to take stock of what is going around us.” Indeed, Advent is a call to be aware of our precious inheritance as beloved children of God, to be fully present in this world for fulfilling our call to be a blessing “to all the nations,” and to rediscover God’s presence in the world.
Today I would like to talk about preparedness. Advent recalls for us the ancient prophetic cry, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” In fact, the Gospel of Mark that we will revisit all along the year tells us that the good news of Jesus begins with John’s call to prepare – to organize and to make ready, to reorder personal priorities and to make choices – in other words, to declutter spiritual lives.
In many of our churches the celebration of Advent begins with the Renewal of our Baptismal Vows. Advent, like baptism, offers us the opportunity to wash away the layers upon layers of make up with which we try cover our own fleetingness and our petty interests.
Advent ask us to do what we already know how to do when the Hurricane Season or when Old Man Winter is close at hand. We are asked to secure loose structures, to clean up debris, to stock up supplies, and, in general, to steel ourselves up for the battering winds and the dark days that may lay ahead. And we know it will be to our own peril to ignore the call to be ready.
Like in the material world, spiritual preparedness should move us to prioritize, to organize and to get rid of all the spiritual – and material – clutter overburdening our lives.
First, a good question to ask yourself is, “How secure is my spiritual foundation?” John’s call was not a call to prepare the way for a new religion, to spruce up old traditions, or to clean up old wineskins. It was an entreat to prepare the way for a Person, Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah of God.
Daily life is overly complex. There are many aspects that need to be balanced – family, work, money, personal needs, and the (many) demands of individuals asking for our time or money – or both!
It is against such background that we are asked to reorder and prioritize. If one were to bring God into the equation, it would be to ask God to help in the process.
Let me suggest that Advent turns the issue around. Rather than asking God to help us dealing with our agendas, Advent calls us to do just the opposite – Namely, asking God to show us His agenda. Spiritual preparedness is, then, what we need to do to attune ourselves with what God has in mind and to leave behind our own priorities and narrow interests. Yes; there is a reason for the prophetic call to turn our lives around.
Perhaps during this season, we may ask, “What motivates God?” “Is God only concerned with this one issue (name it here) or does God has some other concerns?” “What God is passionate about?” Or maybe, if it were possible, so to speak, “What would make God begin each new day with a big smile?”
Thus, Advent is a call to stop asking God to bless what you have in mind and start asking God to lead you into what He has in mind for you, for yours, and for the world around you. John put it this way, “The man who will come after me is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to bend down and untie his sandals.”
Jesus said that, “The sheep know their Master’s voice,” (John 10:27). Those words tell us that in hearing what Jesus, “the Good Shepherd of the Sheep,” has to say we will find all that we need to be led to safety and to blessedness.
Listening intently to God’s voice is all that it takes to begin. Like John and Mary listening to God’s voice may lead you into new paths of blessing and spiritual growth. They may not be those who you may have in mind but, for in the end, whose will are we supposed to fulfil?
If you do this, you will soon find a new power to clean up your act, for Jesus is the one who hauled and continues to haul away the sins of the world. Attuning yourself to God’s agenda will help you to prioritize all the competing calls that encircle your life and to be at peace with the choices you make. And when the storms of life arrive, you will know that your foundations will not crumble under your feet.
A voice thunders, “Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys, level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.” (Isaiah 40:3-5, The Message)
Can you hear it now?
Jesus, you came to give us abundant life. Just like every generation before us, we get attached to the hills and valleys and sins that keep you at a “safe” distance. Help us to turn back to you, to see the obstacles. Give us the grace to desire a smother way by letting go of our sins so you can fill our hands and hearts with new life. Amen. (A Prayer from the CCCB).