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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Come Desire of Nations, Come--An Advent Reflection

   Yesterday morning our community celebrated Mass for the last day of the liturgical year. The responsorial psalm was "Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus."  To use a modern word this statement makes for a nice segue into Advent.  One article that I read recently suggests that Advent is the season of desire.  I agree.  But what is desire.

   Our desires are our deepest longings, the things that we most crave for. And what is it that we most desire. St. Augustine answers that question magnificently when he writes at the beginning of his Confessions, "We were made for You alone, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You."  It is God, then that we most desire. This is why Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI in his book, The Holy Longing, says "Spirituality concerns what we do with our desire."  At this point we get into some challenging issues.  Desire can become the desire for wealth and power, or lustful desire.  Over the years this has lead to a distortion of Christian spirituality that leads people to crush all desire.  This leads to a lifeless, dull and boring as well as rigid and legalistic approach to Christianity.  Rolheiser points out that our call is to integrate the other desires into our ultimate desire which is for God.

  Of course we desire love. When young lovers meet, desiring each other so much that they wish to marry, that is a good and holy thing.  That is why I rejoiced at the privilege of presiding at the wedding of my niece, Michelle and her husband Kevin during this past year.  We desire money,not for its own sake, but to provide us with a means of sustenance and support for our families. We can desire power, not to dominate others, but so that we can make a positive difference in this world.  As long as the realization of these desires lead us to that deeper desire for God it is a good and holy thing.  A few months ago a good friend of mine posted on her Facebook page on the occasion of her wedding anniversary a picture of her and her husband in the limo on their wedding day.  Her caption was, "best decision I ever made."  Indeed it was. She found the love of her life, the father of her children and a clear path to God in that decision.

   So what does all that have to do with Advent?  Advent celebrates the desire of the human heart, a desire that was realized in the birth of Christ so long ago.  Yet it also celebrates the fact that all of our desires are yet to be realized. There is still injustice, violence, terrorism and lack of respect for life. In Advent we not only prepare to celebrate Christmas, that first coming, we also open our hearts to prepare for His second coming when all of the ills that we lament will be overcome. There is much talk these days about Mayan calendars and the end of the world.  I would point out that our faith belief is not in the end of the world but rather in the coming of the Kingdom when all the desires of our hearts will be realized in God.  In the liturgy we pray, after the Our Father, "As we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ."  Let us, this Advent, unite all of our desires to that blessed hope.  Come, desire of nations, Come.  Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.

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