Advent Sunday4 (20 Dec 2009)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Can anyone identify with this? “Many things distract me from entering Advent and preparing for Christmas.” I can. To admit distraction from entering Advent and preparing for Christmas suggests self-awareness. Advent invites us to grow more aware of self and God in Jesus by their Spirit at work in us. We may ask ourselves: Do we expect to live by our merits or what we expect through them or by what God in Jesus by their Spirit offers us? One way that registers can be described as the distraction Madison Avenue exerts on our souls’ desire, which the Trinity seeks to meet in Advent. The Madison Avenue focus blurs Advent’s focus and invitation.
We are not the first to contend with this struggle of focus. The passage from Prophet Micah we heard described attributes of God’s Anointed so people might identify the messiah and ally with him. Yet Jesus did not seem to fulfill the prophecy: he was gentle not firm. He was not strong as people expected nor did divine majesty openly radiate from him; and as far as greatness, Jesus’ origins were obscure—even scandalous.
Those who recognized Jesus as Messiah had very different dispositions from those who could not: those who recognized Jesus as Messiah were vulnerable; they acknowledged their limitations and weakness; they weren’t numbered among great ones If they sat with us here, we probably would long to get away.
Many Micah addressed struggled long and hard against all those things they were—weak, limited, without clout, anonymous—and gained docile spirits. Advent invites us to the disposition of docile spirits. Our culture, indeed human nature, isn’t fond of docility of spirit. A docile spirit is not resigned nor wimpy nor whiny. Far from it! Docile means willing to learn. People with docile spirits are focused and attentive to God at work in them. In prophetic language: Behold, I come to do your will. The church early applied those words to Jesus: When Christ came into the world, he said: …behold, I come to do your will. Advent reminds us how Christ came into the world: he was born of the obscure woman, neither wealthy nor powerful, who surrendered herself to an inviting, gracious God.
Imagine Mary’s distractions! How could it be that she would embody God into the world? How would it affect her future and Joseph, her betrothed? Her family, friends, all of Nazareth? Mary surrendered her expectations and her disposition to God who invited her. Her surrender changed history.
You and I overheard yet again two effects of that change in one of history’s most intimate and personal exchanges. Elizabeth’s prophetic in-sight was not hers. With no knowledge of what we know of Mary, Elizabeth proclaimed her kinswoman blessed among feminine humanity and identified Mary almost casually: the mother of my Lord. Giving God our human nature gave Mary her mission. From the confines of home Mary set out in haste; from perplexed girl to a focused servant of an aged woman, whose womb was fully alive; from dreamy fiancée to a joyful young woman of promised blessing.
Elizabeth praised Mary because Mary aligned herself with God’s desire more than for the content of Mary’s belief. Practiced faith exceeds its content. If people held only the content of Micah’s prophecy—that the Messiah would be firm, mighty, radiating divinity—you and I wouldn’t try to surrender to God’s desire for each of us. To consider our expectations in the light of Elizabeth, Mary and Jesus is to begin to free our dispositions, to respond to Advent’s invitation for our futures and to surrender to prophetic language we often use all too casually.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, surrender yourself to the Trinity’s love for you. Ask Mary to present you to her son. Converse with Jesus: express to him your awe that in him God shared our human nature; ask Jesus to free you more to welcome his divinity both hidden in our humanity and at work through you to make his desires come alive today. Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. To pray, “thy kingdom come,” means to pave the way for it in ways gentle, strong, focused, prophetic and to grow more aware we are blessed even in hidden ways.
Wiki-image by Deror avi of the Visitation is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.