Prepare to be surprised


A few thoughts for the Second Sunday of Advent…

We have expectations, which is pretty normal and human, of who or what Jesus Christ is or will be. Therefore we may miss many of the cues that he is right before us or within us. An example of this is found in today’s Gospel when we hear about John the Baptist preparing the way. In addition to our expectations of Jesus, we have them about John. He is speaking to us always and we are pretty just not seeing or hearing him, or ignoring him if we do notice. Maybe it is time to prepare the way of the Lord by preparing to be surprised, delighted, astonished, challenged, and comforted.

We hate waiting and we hate to change. These are two of the biggest things that are asked of us by God. Most of us respond with resistance. Sometimes waiting is the best thing we can do, no matter how hard. At other times, when those of us who have power tell those of us who do not have power to just be patient and wait, it becomes an abuse of power. It is pretty sick and cruel, but we do it all the time, it becomes second nature. I am reminded of Rigoberta Menchú who received the Nobel Peace Prize on this day in 1992. She once said, “My people are hungry. Don’t speak to us of buildings and police forces, we need food and respect.” (I have this on a Pax Christi daily calendar, but I must say, I cannot find the quote elsewhere, but I’m going with it.) If you are hungry, cold, sick, naked, or subject to injustice, imposed waiting can be a weapon. And if change comes, whether we seek it or resist it, when it does come, it impacts all of us. Everyone needs to prepare for that because sometimes the change we seek, that meaning the justice and mercy of Christ, might not look or feel exactly how we imagined it. Surprise!

We love to make things complicated. The “no pain, no gain” model of life has taken root in many forms. We know that the way to the Cross involves pain, but sometimes we love to impose it upon ourselves in ways that we think will be pleasing to God. Other times we may think, to heck with that, I’m not going through all of that! God challenges us, but if we pay attention to the first and second readings for today, we also know that God offers us comfort. Sometimes we do not believe that we are worthy of comfort, or that it will make  us weak. Maybe the offer of comfort is even a trick from the devil? The reality is that God’s challenge includes the merciful touch of God’s comfort, the most tender embrace, the most generous gift. It is with us as we wait, but we must be open to such things.

Speaking of which, our participation is required. None of this is passive, not even the waiting, so we have to use our time of contemplation as a time of action. Without a life of some prayer and silence, not in some perfect way that no one can do, but in the ways that we are called to do so, is important. If spending five minutes in relative silence in your kitchen when you arise, focused on some way on God, then that’s a place to be in silence. If you can sit quietly at lunch for a short period of time, let that be the place. Prayer, especially silent prayer, does not mean reciting the rosary or offering a litany, just silence before God. Gazing at the sun, taking in the fresh coating of snow, savoring that first cup of coffee or tea with gratitude for whatever it is – all the while not thinking (this is hard!) of the news or our to do lists might be the holiest act of each day.

It is in this way that we prepare the way of the Lord. This is not about making straight the paths of others, but by looking within. Out of our small acts and sometimes seemingly insignificant choices, we begin the process. God is patient with us, may we be so with God. Wait for Jesus with hope, and always prepare to be surprised.

Here is a real throwback song to earworm you later in the day!


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