4th Sunday of Advent Year B

     I’m convinced that many of us have the idea of religion completely backward. Sadly, for many Christians religion is a laborious task where we reach out to God in the hope that we can break through the wall that separates heaven from earth in the hopes that God will hear us. We pray with the hope that somehow, we can appease God and convince Him to give us what we need. In this view, religion is the practice of doing things out of obligation simply because we have no other option. With this view of religion, it is hardly surprising that the burden eventually wears so many people down and they stop practicing the faith. Fortunately, the story of the Christmas which we will celebrate in just a few short hours, shows us that this view of religion is backward.

     The Christmas story, clearly shows us that it is God who first seeks us out. We are not left on our own to bring God into our lives. You see, “God is no longer separated from us by the iron curtain of His inaccessible otherworldliness; he crossed the diving line to become one of us.”[1] In other words, we don’t have to go and try to find God, rather God comes to find us. We see this beautiful reality in today’s Gospel, where St. Luke recounts for us the moment John the Baptist first had an encounter with Jesus. It was not John the Baptist who sought Jesus, it is Jesus who, while still in the womb of His mother came and sought out John the Baptist.

     You see, religion then is not something that we fashion, but rather something that God fashioned for us. For you see it is God who first loved us and not us who first love God. Since God is the principle lover, our job is simply to open ourselves up to that love and then respond in love. Our faith is nothing more than a response to God who first reaches out to us in love.

     Our response to faith must imitate John the Baptist in today’s gospel. You see, just as God came to visit John in that remote Hebrew village before either of them were born, He to sought us out from the very moment of our conception and today, in just a few moments, when we come forward to receive Holy Communion, He will come to the insignificant city of Florissant to dwell in us. Like John the Baptist, we then must put aside any fear of the unknown or desire for passing pleasure and allow this joy that comes only from an encounter with God into our hearts. For when we open ourselves to God’s love our lives are change because that response of faith lifts away a burden of obligation and fills our hearts with the joy of God’s love.

     As Americans, we are often preoccupied with what we have to do, but when it comes to faith, so often the best thing we can do is nothing … nothing but simply be in God’s presence. Sure, this requires us to do things like go to Mass and sit down to pray so we can be with Him, but once we are there we need to stop reaching for God and simply let Him possess us. We can’t forget that “prayer is successfully being quiet, listening to God and being able to hear the ineffable moaning of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us and cries out silently.”[2] So, this Christmas why not give God the gift of your time? Why not carve out some time from your busy schedule to give Him your undivided attention, a time when you do nothing but open yourself up to His presence. For when we make time with Jesus a daily priority, all our other priorities will sort themselves out.

     Think about those you love them most. Is there anything more special than just being with them? Does not our experience show us that being is more important than doing? Isn’t it true that what matters most to those who truly love us is who we are and not what we accomplish? So, then this must also be true with the God who loves us. Friends as we stand hours from the celebration of Christmas, we can’t help but recall the great lengths God went to in order to break down the wall that divided heaven and earth, so He could be with us. The celebration of Christmas is proof God wants to be with us. So why not let Him?

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg 333.

[2] Robert Cardinal Sarah. The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017. Pg 52.

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