At this point in the middle of our Advent journey, we can pause to enjoy what this week is about. Each day, we can be asking for the grace to let Jesus into our hearts – to let him be closer to us and to let ourselves be closer to him.
The promise made to Joseph was that the result of his openness to cooperating with God’s plan would be: “God is with us.” Joseph couldn’t have imagined what that would mean. At times, we can’t imagine what that means for us, today.
Jeremiah knew the problem. King David’s line had been virtually wiped out. But Jeremiah trusted God’s fidelity. With the same image of a shoot coming forth, Isaiah could proclaim that “a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse (David’s father).”
This is good news for us today, whenever we see only darkness, and can’t imagine a light shining for us to guide the way. At times, we see only dead ends. We sometimes are so discouraged by the stresses and challenges we are facing that it is difficult to even think about promises of hope. We can feel trapped – stuck in a situation that fills us with fear, or anger, or which has simply suffocated any ability to dream.
Today, we can pause to remember that “God is with us.” We are not alone. And, in this pause, we can ask for the grace to let Jesus into our hearts – to let him in, past the barriers. What are the barriers? A pause today could help us identify them.
In his latest Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis writes about a “practical relativism” in which we act, in our day to day life, like God doesn’t really exist. He said that this can be result in – in a heart that believes all the doctrine and teachings – “a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost.” Francis calls us to say “No to selfishness and spiritual sloth.” He talks about the dangers of “acedia,” which is an emptiness or listlessness that results in not really caring about anything. He warns of a “gray pragmatism,” transforming us into “mummies.” “Disillusioned with reality, with the Church and with themselves, they experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy, lacking in hope which seizes the heart.” He asks us to say “no to a sterile pessimism.” He said, “Our faith is challenged to discern how wine can come from water and how wheat can grow in the midst of weeds.” He writes about a “defeatism” which can turn us into “disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses.’” He warns that we can, in discouragement, be tempted to “build without God.” He urges us to say “yes to a new relationship with Jesus.”
This is what Advent is for. It is an opportunity to open our hearts to Jesus’ coming today, in the midst of our darkness. This is not something abstract or intellectual. It is personal. If I let him love me, forgive me, tell me I’m precious, that I’m not alone, then I can face any challenge with hope. This is what real joy is all about. And, even when our union with Jesus leads us to the Cross, we are with him on the path to eternal life.
Let us all pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” with deeper, more personal meaning today, and each day in the days ahead. And, let us let him come into those places of our lives where he so wants to come with tenderness, comfort, healing and life.
“The Joy of the Gospel” can be found at:
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