Some might say that the monk’s life is one of a perpetual Lent. I am inclined to see it more of a perpetual Advent – a way of life that is about anticipating the coming of the Reality of God in Christ, each day, every day. It’s a life that strives for an alertness with God and grounded in the common prayer and work together. It is not a passive life. It is filled with vitality and energy and in it all, we are waiting…watching...listening.
For many of us the idea of being on alert for the arrival of the Divine Reality of God is something that is easy to understand. We need to be ready when the moment comes, whatever that means. But what does that actually mean? Does it mean the second coming of Christ? This Advent we will once again remember the initial in-breaking of God – the light piercing the darkness of our world in the Divine Person of Jesus. And we also anticipate the future coming of Christ – or the returning of Christ. But what about the in-between time in which we are living. Jesus came to us some two-thousand years ago and yes, I believe he will surely come again, but could it also be that Christ continues to come to us each moment of every day in our lives? Is not the Reality of God truly incarnate in every breath and every heartbeat, in every encounter with one another? I say yes. And this can dramatically affect how we live this spiritual experience we call life. But we must be sure that our spiritual senses are alert, otherwise we may miss the moment – in each moment – of our lives.
So we must stay attentive at the ready not just in remembering the past or anticipating the future, but in every living, breathing moment of our lives, because God is continually coming, and we must do our spiritual work in order to cultivate a heart of hospitality that welcomes the in-dwelling of God. And when we have this spiritual alertness and depth of grounding we are truly ready – not only to realize the continual coming of the Divine Reality of God, but also ready to share that Good News with the world in ways that are truly meaningful and relevant in people’s lives and especially in the lives of the poor and the suffering. Because if it’s not good news for the poor, it’s not the Good News of God in Christ.
When teaching us how to most authentically go about living the Gospel, Jesus always grounded that teaching in kinship with the poor – the homeless, the starving, the thirsty, the sick, and the prisoner. It is clear that how we are in relationship with others – especially the poorest among us, whether they be around the corner or half-way around the world – is how we are in relationship with God.
It’s no mystery as to why we most always feel at our best when we are helping others – it’s because we are hardwired for it. We all have the compassionate core within us as and when we tap into that incarnate energy we are closer to our most authentic self, the self that realizes the incarnation of God within. We flourish when we help others flourish. This is the nature of Divine Love.
So let’s all embrace the spirit of Advent with the wonderful stories of Mary and Joseph; Elizabeth and Zachariah, John the Baptist, the angels and shepherds, and most of all, the coming of Jesus – the light piercing our darkness and hope being born into the world. Together let’s look forward to the next few weeks with wonder and gladness and expectation. When we encounter people along the way, especially those who are suffering, or in need, or even people who are hard for us to be around, we might ask ourselves: How can I help this person flourish and remember the best of who they are? Because in doing so we remember the best of who we are, and this is when we most fully feel and know the incarnation of Divine Love. And this is the Good News of the incarnation of God alive not just somewhere in the past or off in the future, but right here, right now – alive in each of us.
May God bless your Advent and bring you to a Christmas of peace and good will for all.