Advent: Open Our Hearts and Be Transformed
As you all know I am an impatient priest and I hate waiting for anything. I’ve always been that way. Some years ago, it was popular to say that Advent was a time of waiting. We are waiting for the coming of the Lord at Christmas, we are waiting for Christ to come at the end of time and, of course, we are waiting for the Lord to come to each of us at the end of our life. You would think that Advent, the season of waiting, would be my least favorite time of the Church’s year. But I love Advent. Why?
Because Advent is not a time of waiting at all, it is rather, a time of preparation. That’s why the expectant Virgin Mary, Our Lady, is the image and model of Advent. I’m the oldest of my siblings and so I can remember my mother being pregnant with my twin sisters who are five years younger than me. I can certainly recall my sisters being pregnant not to mention cousins and friends. Now, while they were expecting they weren’t passively sitting by “waiting.” Advent is like the time when we are waiting for a baby to arrive – how about that – and that’s just what we are doing in waiting for the baby Jesus at Christmas.
When my sisters were expecting they didn’t sit by passively waiting for the stork to turn up. They were very actively preparing for the arrival of their child (between them seven children actually). As well as constant doctors’ visits, prenatal checks, ultra sound photos, rooms must be made ready, cots bought, prams, bedding, feeding utensils, food, diapers, clothes, and on, and on. Names must be considered; some people already enroll their children in the schools they hope they will attend.
Interestingly, family and friends get together and hold “showers” and provide presents in preparation for the arrival of the new child. We get ready for the coming of a child, we prepare, we are “expectant,” hopeful, we are full of energy, and we are actively waiting. This is what Advent is supposed to be like for all of us. It is a time of spiritual preparation as we wait to receive Jesus. We prepare to meet Jesus in three ways: first at Christmas when we remember He came to save us. Secondly, we turn our minds to the end of time, and we remember He will come again not as a child but as the judge, so we need to get ready. We remind ourselves to prepare for Him because soon we will face Him as our days on earth come to an end. Most of all we remember to make a place for Him in our own hearts now, we open our hearts to receive His grace, His life, His presence. All new born children change the lives of their parents as they no longer live for themselves but for their child. This Sacred Baby, Jesus, is entering our lives, maybe that should change our lives also. Advent reminds us to be ready, to prepare, because Jesus is coming to us.
The Virgin Mary was prepared to receive the Lord into Her body because she had already prepared Her heart to receive Him. That’s what Hail, Full of Grace means. If grace is God’s life in us and Mary was already full of grace, she had no room for sin. And He came to her. She was waiting for Him by preparing for Him. She gave herself to Him completely so that even His flesh is made from Her body, her blood flows through His heart. We are called to do the same. To wait for Jesus by preparing for Him.