Advent - Coming Into Our Own

Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 18)

By Bill Picard

The readings for this Sunday:

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

The full text of the readings can be found here.

Hope springs eternal. Sometimes we get a peak at what we hope for. Sometimes we can almost taste it. This happened to me and three thousand other gifted people in Milwaukee at the Call to Action. We had gathered to celebrate the Eucharist at the end of three days of hearing the Word as it was broken for us by some of the Lord's most gifted persons. As we came together to celebrate, we had no doubt that we were church. We knew that we were a force to be dealt with. We felt comfortable being in the presence of one another. We knew in a most tangible way that we were the Body of Christ.

Peter Maurin, who began the Catholic Worker Movement with Dorothy Day, once wrote in his incessant spirit of hope that the church is dynamite. It needs to be exploded. At that gathering in Milwaukee, I got a sense of what he was trying to say. We were all thrilled and didn't want to go home. Many were joyfully saying this was their "fix" and they were so grateful.

This was my beginning of Advent, the "coming" which we were ritualizing. It was the coming presence in the world of us, his body. Of us his church. Jesus knew his body the church, once blossomed, was a force for the Kingdom. Once we exploded we were more than enough light and salt and yeast for the whole world. We who had received a peek at ourselves as church in Milwaukee had an insatiable thirst to be church. We had to go beyond being Catholic by habit and be church way beyond our belonging to an institution.

Each year we usher in Advent with the thoughts of Jesus in mind. He said we had gone out to the desert to see a prophet. "A prophet indeed, and something more," he said. "Yet the least born into the kingdom of God is greater than he." In a word, advent is a yearly reminder that we are to be prophets. And when we mature in our baptism we become effective and great. We become the conduit of the Kingdom, the demonstration of what life is really like. As we experienced in Milwaukee.

Victor Havel, the president of the Czech Republic, said that a prophet "holds up a critical mirror to their surroundings." He echoed the words of Jesus who said, we must be "in the world, but not of it." When the crowds clamor for war, the prophet says no. When the murderer is about to be executed, the prophet says no. The prophet knows what the behavior of the Kingdom is and shows it in his life.

Edwina Gately, who ministers to prostitutes in Chicago, envisions the church, you and me, not as exploding like dynamite, but more as smoldering in the underbrush - stretching, as she says. God's business will always be about being stretched. "If we journey in faithfulness, then God gets bigger in our lives as we mature and deepen in wisdom. If we want to live in comfort, God takes us to the edge. We can no longer stay as children, wanting certainties. We should celebrate our loss of identity and certainty in this church." In this world, but not of it.

Fear not, the pope said. We need not cower in our calling to be together the Body of Jesus in our world. We are a powerful force for good and Godness. This coming of the Kingdom will become part of our existence. Slowly we shall all experience this coming of the Kingdom. Slowly we shall all experience the joy of being a fully developed church and we shall not be afraid. We shall be joyful together because we are church. We shall be healing because we are church. This advent let us grow and mature into prophets.