Last weekend I was privileged to attend an Advent retreat day. The presenter, Fr. Anand Pereira, SJ, explored the theme of the need for a-vent (Advent) in order to experience more fully the graces of the Incarnation, what we celebrate at Christmas.
His premise was that negative thoughts and feelings, if left unchecked by us, can act as a murky, foggy screen in our hearts that effectively blocks our capability to welcome Jesus in.
In today's first reading, we read the story of Samson, who like Jesus's cousin, John, the subject of the Gospel was conceived by his parents long after the “normal” ages of parents. Notice in the account, the angel of God appears and tells “the woman” that she will become a mother for the first time and she is to embark on a healthy lifestyle immediately so as to protect the child growing within her. She complies immediately and goes to give this astounding news to her husband. From the account, in due time Samson is born, who is to be consecrated to God “from the womb to his death.” From then on, the Spirit of the Lord stirred in him.
Case closed, until, of course, Hollywood movie makers took hold of him, his strength, and his hair which was not ever to be cut.
On the other hand, the news of John's coming birth was met with doubt and fear by his father Zechariah. He was unable to receive the coming Gift of God at first. Instead of being able to enjoy the growing child, he was struck dumb. For a priest speechlessness would seem to be a stern condition.
“Nothing is impossible for God.”
Advent offers an annual time to reflect on and pray with those negative thoughts and feelings that are preventing our hearts from welcoming the Spirit of Jesus, to see Him in ourselves and others.
What might those be? Already mentioned are doubt and fear. Others might be anger, hatred, resentments - you fill in further.
Let us pray together for courage to open the vents, clear the air, and wait patiently for the gifts that the Spirit is longing to share. This COULD be your Advent like no other.
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