Thursday, December 10, 2015

How can you think of Christmas when Easter is upon you?

One of my friends was diagnosed with liver cancer.  She has been given only a few months to live.   My heart breaks when I think of this.  As I read the readings for tomorrow's daily Mass I am struck dumbfounded.   How can I think of Christmas when all that is on my mind is her Easter?  How much more so the experience must be for her.   She's angry.  I ran into her in the parking lot and I listened to her.  You know, not that expectant kind of listening where you wait for your turn to talk... but that kind of listening where you try to get out of the way and truly be present to them.  It was hard.  Not hard in the sense of getting out of the way, for once that part was automatic.  I felt God in that moment, I felt his Holy Spirit doing the listening... responding.  What was hard was listening to another friend, another person I have grown to love, share their grief with me and their fear.   Their fear of what was coming.

I am not sure any amount of faith could bring you to be ready for that.  Secure, sure.  I have seen people who are secure in their faith.   They know what is coming and they are ready to see their Lord.  How do you overcome the fear though?  The fear for those who you are leaving behind.  The fear for all the unfinished things.  The practical things.   All of it.  It is overwhelming to say the least.  It's Advent.  That time of year that we as Catholics use to remind us of the things that are important in life.   When we examine our thoughts, our words, and our actions, then through prayer and a sacramental life, we begin to let the Lord change us into who we are supposed to be.  We get out of the way.

In a world where we have so much, how often we instead find a million things to complain about.  In a season that we are supposed to be looking for Christ, when we are supposed to be examining inward as much as outward, to find what is between us and the fullness of humanity.... all too often we instead spend the time picking apart everyone else.  Instead of looking for Christ, we look for Satan... or don't look at all. We sit in our heat controlled homes, watching the news on flat screen TVs or Smart Phones, eating our clean, enjoyable foods; and we complain.  The store lines are too long.   They started Christmas too early.  The Pope had a slide show projected on the Vatican.   Look who funded it!? 

We pick apart that person, that Rite, that family, them.. they.    Jesus is talking to the crowds two thousand years ago in the Gospel, but he might as well be talking to us.  John came conservative, poor and meek, doing none of the things that a liberal might do.   They weren't happy with him.  Then Jesus came, drinking with the sinners, going to parties, and eating food.   He must be a drunk and a glutton!  No matter what they did, they could not win.  How so with the Pope today?  For liberals he didn't go far enough.  For conservatives he stepped over the line.  The truth lies in the middle.  The truth lies in looking at the present.  The truth lies in opening our eyes and asking what Truth lies in this slide show, what Truth lies in this family.. what Truth lies in this person or this Religion. 

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts and our worlds for the coming of Christ.  It's a time to reflect on the fact He was born into our world as one of us.   That He is being born every day into our hearts and our lives.   That He will come again at the end of time and the universe itself and all in it will be reborn.  The thing is all too many are trying to prepare the world before they prepare themselves.  Conversion has to start with us.   Only when we are authentic will anyone ever be drawn to Christ through us.  Only when our lives show that we truly believe, that we are 100% committed, that Christ is being born in our heart; only then will anyone be attracted to Christ through you.

My friend is seeing Christmas with new eyes.   This is her last.   It's her last chance to go through Advent.   To worship Christ in the Mass.   To journey into a new year.  To celebrate the season of Easter.. while on her way to her own Easter.  In a way though.. she's also on her way to her own Christmas.   We Catholics believe that this is not the end for her.. but a new beginning.  A time to go from this world to the next.  Not an end, but a transition.  How much more does that bring Advent alive?   We don't know when it will be our turn.  This could be your last Advent.. this could be your last Christmas... or the last one for someone you love.   Are you prepared?   Are they?  Are you working to help them?  Is your life one that calls to them in a way that they say "I want what they have!"   Christmas can start today in your heart... you and I are on our way to our own Easter... our own rebirth.  Get ready.  Be ready.  Stay ready.

God's promise is one of love.  One of joy.  One of resurrection.  It begins though with obedience.  It begins with doing what he said... out of love.  It begins with hope.  As he said to His people then and he says to his people now:

Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel:
I, the LORD, your God,
teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go.
If you would hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea;
Your descendants would be like the sand,
and those born of your stock like its grains,
Their name never cut off
or blotted out from my presence.

Bring him into your heart.  Bring him into your life.  Let him be born again now, that you may be born again then.   That your name may never be cut off or blotted out from His presence.  

His servant and yours,