One way to hear the Advent Gospel message is to put ourselves in the shoes of all those people walking out to that desert to listen to John the Baptist. Not at all hesitant in throwing down his challenge, John puts it right out there. “Repent” he keeps repeating. “Stop moving in the direction you’re going, turn around, and head out on a different path. But even more importantly, open yourselves to who is coming toward you along that healing road.”
John goes on: “There are many voices coming at you. But I’m asking you to hear one in particular, to open your ears and listen more receptively. Moreso, open your hearts to who is reaching out to you, the one who wants to take you lovingly to Himself. Switch to this new frequency, the one that can lock in on who this person is coming toward you, this Jesus of Nazareth.’
John continues: “Step away from all those things that are not to be found on this new road: injustice, shallow religious practices, neglect of the poor, dishonesty, selfish isolation. These blur your vision for all the goods out there along Jesus’ Way: generosity, sacrifice for others, honesty, transparency, care of those poor ones shunted off to the side as having little worth.
John is saying to us this Advent: do whatever you can to take in the person of this Jesus now moving toward you. Who he is and what he brings is none other than God’s own love, the divine care, strength and compassion as it is being spread all through the world.
In a word, John asks us to be receptive; i.e., welcoming, open, ready to take in the riches this Jesus brings. The Baptist keeps repeating, “Prepare, Prepare the way of the Lord! Be actively and attentively wide open to whom it is coming toward us. ”
Fleshing out such receptivity might translate into little things such as taking a few silent moments in the early morning to attend to what of God might be moving toward us in course of the day. Or that quiet time taken at night to say a thank you for helps and lights that came your way.
Another exercise in receptivity might be paying extra attention to the person in front of you, the kind of attention Pope Francis calls “encounter.” In this you try to tune into the deeper layers of what someone is saying, and by the same token you work at bringing more of your own self into the conversation.
This Advent, the Baptist is urging us to open as fully as we can to the presence ever moving toward us, the embracing Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In a prayer for humility, doesn’t Vincent model this same receptivity. “So then, speak to us, Lord, speak to us yourself; we’re here as so many servants who are listening to You. Is there anything grace can’t do, and we as well?”
(Volume: 12 | Page#: 166) Humility, 18 April, 1659 )
May our Advent expectancy open us to ‘He Who Is To Come!’
Thanks, Tom, for making John the Baptist speak to us in the way we speak and express our thoughts today.
And you remind me of John Macquarrie’s writings, also Edward Schillebeeckx’s and also Jim Plastaras’ (in God of Exodus).
Thank you Tom for your Advent insight. Great way to begin the day.