Advent is a season of waiting – we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior. We do wait – but the one for whom we wait is someone who has already arrived – we wait for someone who is with us always. True we wait for, we prepare for the feast of Christmas – when we celebrate an event that happened over 2000 years ago, an event that fulfilled the hopes and dreams of all those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. We wait for the final coming of Jesus at a date and time unknown to us.
The truth is we wait for someone who has already arrived, someone who is always with us – our Emmanuel. Maybe we can think on this – we wait for One who waits for us to recognize Him in others. Let’s go back to the question I ask the children in school, ‘what do you have to do if you want to see Jesus’ – look at the person next to you. If we don’t see Jesus in that person, we don’t see Him at all. We have to take seriously the words of Jesus, “whatever you do to one of these the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you do to me.”
Our opening prayer prays – remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy – not the Christ who came 2000 years ago, not the Christ who will come at a time known only to God – but the Christ who is in our face, the Christ who is in every person who comes into our lives – friend or stranger.
A number of years ago there was book of reflections on the Stations of the Cross written by a woman name Carol Houselander. The reflection on the eighth station – Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem – has Jesus saying – ‘don’t weep for me as I suffered two thousand years ago, weep for me as I suffer now in my brothers and sisters who come into your life.
Maybe we could hear Jesus saying to us in the season of waiting – don’t wait to greet me, welcome me, accept me -as you celebrate my birthday – greet me, welcome me, accept me as I come to you in every person you meet, whether that person is a close friend or a total stranger.
What are the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy? What are the things that hinder us from recognizing and accepting Christ in every one we meet and doing this with joy? Using the imagery of John the Baptist we can ask ourselves ‘what are the mountains and hills, the valleys and crooked ways that block and hinder us from seeing and accepting and respecting Jesus in every one we meet?
Could it be that we can’t handle strangeness, difference, diversity, could it be that we can’t cope with different opinions, insights and so we are closed to men and women of different faiths, cultures or life styles? Do we allow ourselves to be hindered by the mountains and hills of bigotry and prejudice?
There is a blight on our Canadian history in the remark of McKenzie King when he heard that a boat filled with Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany had been turned away from our shores – he is supposed to have said – one Jew is too many. That’s an awful thing to day about any race.
Do we allow the mountains and valleys and crooked ways of resistance and resentment toward immigrants prevent us from accepting these good people who come to this land seeking a better life, a better future for their children? These are good people having the same hopes and dreams our ancestors had when they came to Canada. Do these mountains and valleys and crooked ways hinder us from receiving Christ with joy as we meet Him in these good people?
Do we find ourselves using words like ‘these people’ as we lump the homeless, the street people, young people in gangs – lump all together as the problem people in society? Surely these attitudes hinder us from receiving Christ with joy – for ‘these people’ are as precious to Christ as we are.
Continuing this Mass, entering more deeply into this time of waiting – we can pray for ourselves and for each other that with the help of God’s grace we will remove those attitudes and mind sets that hinder us from receiving with joy the Christ who is in our face in every person who comes into our lives.