Here's a reflection I gave at the monastery on the Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Advent.
Imagine that you are at St. Meinrad at the archabby church. It’s before the current renovation, so there’s still a balcony. You’re simply sitting and praying when you notice Sr. Mary Mark come in with a family whose little girl goes to Madonna Learning Center in Memphis, TN. They are taking in the beauty of the church and fail to notice the girl slip away from them, climb the stairs to the balcony, look at everyone below, and proclaim in a very loud and clear voice so that the entire church can hear, “Jesus is going to be here in 10 minutes.”
Now tell me, what would you have done? I know if I had been there, I would have looked at my watch and waited around at least 15 more minutes. I would have even given Jesus ½ an hour. I would have stood a little straighter and been on the look out. After all, God spoke to Moses through a burning bush. God spoke to others in a whisper or a dream. Our Gospel reading today quotes Isaiah, which reads, “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.” Who’s to say God’s not sending this message to us through a little girl from Memphis, TN? I certainly would have waited around a few more minutes to find out.
The more important question though, is not what would you have done for the next 10 minutes or so, but what would you have done after you waited and realized that this proclamation was not going to be fulfilled? What would you have done after an hour? Would you still have stood a little straighter? Still be on the look out? Would your life have been any different?
Does knowing that Jesus may come at any minute change the way you think, act, speak, or feel? Does knowing that Jesus is present with me right now as I stand up here and speak affect how I live my life? Does it affect how you love and how you express that love? Does it affect your priorities? Does knowing that Jesus is here present within each person, that God created us and calls us all beloved, that we are all created in God’s image, that we are all God’s children, brothers and sisters in God’s family, affect how I treat the person next to me, the person I pass in the hallway, the person I get stuck with at table, the person I live with, the person who is getting on my nerves yet again?
Advent, as we know, is a time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus. How are we preparing the way for the Lord? How are we living our lives so that we can become more fully aware of God’s presence at all times?
In the Gospel, we hear about John the Baptist. We are called to follow his example, minus the camel hair, locusts, and wild honey, and prepare the way for the Lord. The girl from TN was following his example, and her message would have woken me up. But if I live my life fully the way God intends, those 10 minutes waiting to see if anything would happen should not have been much different than how I live my life all the time.
As we prepare the way for the Lord, we begin first by getting to know ourselves. Theresa of Avila said that you cannot know Jesus if you do not know yourself. This “getting to know myself” was felt most intensely for the first time for me during my novice year. When someone asked how my novice year was going, I responded, “I didn’t know what I was getting into.” Getting to know ourselves can be painful and challenging as we discover and uncover things we had always kept hidden. Then, of course, after that, as we continue to journey forth toward getting to know ourselves and the God who dwells within us, it’s a lot of hard work. You all know that and model that through your perseverance.
We prepare the way for the Lord by getting to know ourselves first. In so doing, we come to know the God who dwells within us. We can then radiate God’s light and let God’s love shine through us.
We don’t have to wait or wonder when Jesus is going to be here. It won’t be in 10 minutes. Just look around and within. Jesus is already present.