Daily Reflection
December 11th, 1999
Tom Purcell
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Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11
Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Matthew 17:10-13

Advent finds me in the typical end of semester rush to grade, evaluate, and tie up the loose ends of courses.  I am pleased with many things about my students and courses this semester.  I think we both have learned, from each other and for each other.  I am left with a taste for more - time to be together, to discover new things and to dig deeper into already uncovered treasures, to grow in our mutual understanding and care.  And yet I am grateful for this closure, this passing, for it portends new groups, new challenges, new insights.

It strikes me that Advent is much like where I find myself today.  There is a limited amount of time until there is clearly defined, immutable closure - Christmas comes but once a year, and those grades will be turned in by December 22!  There is a rush, a flurry of activity which I feel I must complete before the event at the end of the period.  Since the time is short I am forced to make choices about what is really important to me and to those for whom I have some responsibility.  I know that there have been similar periods in the past and probably will be in the future.

And yet Advent is so much more.  It is difficult for me to appreciate the longing that the Hebrew nation must have felt for centuries as it awaited the Messiah.  Today's readings give but a glimpse into the ache that the people must have felt (and that many today still feel).  The psalmist recognizes the saving power of God is not to intervene in some mystical way, but to do something practical (take care of the vine) to save us from ourselves.  The entreaty to "make us turn to you" so "we will no more withdraw from you" is a poignant insight into our common psyche.  We are inclined to withdraw, to be self-centered, to be impatient with long waits.  And so the psalmist implores God to change our focus from ourselves to the face of God.  The wait is so long, that if God doesn't help us we will lose faith and be lost.

Although we might not have the longing of those ancient peoples, Advent can be a time when we can experience a small sip of anticipation.  The difficult task is to fight all about us which pulls us into ourselves and away from God.  And the incredible irony is that the pull can be strongest in this season of holiness because of the world about us.  And so, I can raise my voice with the psalmist and sing with new understanding, "Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved." 

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