Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Advent Reflection: Are You Ready?

I posted this last year about this time, but it seems to be just as suitable this year – if not more so.

It’s Gaudete Sunday – we are joyful! The Lord is coming, and He is getting nearer! In our secular lives, we may be thinking, “Christmas is coming. It’s getting closer. Am I ready?” And maybe we are happy because Christmas is closer, or maybe we start to panic over the presents we haven’t bought yet. Too often, I think, we keep our devotional life from touching our secular life. We don’t let the joy of the nearness of the Christ Child overcome the anxiety of “Christmas stuff” – the decorating, the parties, the gift-giving.

The joy we feel at the thought of the first coming of Jesus, when he arrived as a little baby in the manger, is different from the joy we feel at the thought of the second coming. When the Lord comes again, it will be a time for awe and some trepidation. “Am I ready?” we must ask ourselves again. Am I truly ready to receive the Lord, to stand before the Just One who sees all my sins?

The following is from a homily of Origen on the Gospel of Luke; it’s not on this Sunday’s gospel reading, but I thought it was an interesting meditation, given all the indications that persecution of Christians, and especially Catholics, is on the increase in this country. Are we ready for that? Are we ready to stand strong for the Lord, even when our very livelihood is threatened by those who want to outlaw Catholic thought and teaching? [My emphases]

Origen says this:

“I suggest that the faithful are like a heap of unsifted grain, and that the wind represents the temptations which assail them and show up the wheat and chaff among them. When your soul is overcome by some temptation, it is not the temptation that turns you into chaff; the temptation simply discloses the stuff you are made of. On the other hand, when you endure temptations bravely it is not the temptation that makes you faithful and patient; temptation merely brings to light the hidden virtues of patience and fortitude that have been present in you all along. Do you think I had any other purpose in speaking to you, said the Lord to Job, than to reveal our virtue? In another text he declares, I humbled you and made you feel the pangs of hunger in order to find out what was in your heart.

“In the same way, a storm will not allow a house to stand firm if it is built upon sand. If you wish to build a house, you must build it upon rock. Then any storms that arise will not demolish your handiwork, whereas the house built upon sand will totter, proving thereby that it is not well founded.

“So while all is yet quiet, before the storm gathers, before the squalls begin to bluster or the waves to swell, let us concentrate all our efforts on the foundations of our building and construct our house with the many strong, interlocking bricks of God’s commandments. Then when cruel persecution is unleashed like some fearful tornado against Christians we shall be able to show that our house is built upon Christ Jesus our rock.

“Far be it from us to deny Christ when that time comes. But if anyone should do so, let that person realize that it was not at the moment of his public denial that his apostasy took place. Its seeds and root had been hidden within him for a long time; persecution only brought into the open and made public what was already there. Let us pray to the Lord then that we may be firm and solid buildings that no storm can overthrow, founded on the rock of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”

(Selection from Journey with the Fathers: Commentaries on the Sunday Gospels, Year C, edited by Edith Barnecut, OSB; emphases added)

Are you ready?

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