He’s coming, people.
Are you ready for him?
Here we are: a novena away from Christmas. The last days of Advent carry special importance as we near the birth of Jesus. It’s the reason for our joy today, on this “Gaudete Sunday.” The nearness of God is the cause for Paul’s command today to “rejoice always.” In fact, the presence of Jesus for St. Paul was more than just a “nice feeling of warmth and cheer” – the sort that our songs, commercials, and Hallmark Channel TV movies serve up every day at this time of year. Instead, Paul knows that Jesus has completely transformed reality. He knows that the coming of Jesus has already had its effect in the world; and for this reason he calls us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing [and] in all circumstances give thanks.”
This is why you and I need to heed that advice. Even when we have nothing worldly to be joyful about – we deal with illness, was, fear for our future, estrangement from family, terror, cancer, death. Even in those circumstances, Paul tells us to “give thanks.”
He does that because Jesus has taken on all of it – all that makes us human, for better and for worse. The Incarnation, which is what Christmas is all about, has united God and Man. As we sing, “God and sinners reconciled.” And more than that, because Jesus has united our human destiny with His own divine life, everything we do is an expression of our new relationship with God. The only way to really show appreciation for that great gift of Grace is to “rejoice always.”
Because he is coming.
Who is he?
No, he is not Santa Claus, kids. That’s not who I am talking about. But, “he” is not Jesus either. Yes, Christ is coming; and this is what Advent is all about. But that is not what I am talking about. I know Jesus has come; I welcome Him into my heart, my life, my Church.
But the “he” that I am talking about is that guy – that woman – that family – who will be here next Sunday evening, stealing your seat in the pew. “He” is the one who comes once or twice a year. “He” is the person that we “good Catholics” always complain about. He chews gum during the Readings, talks during the homily, drinks Starbucks in church, leaves right after Communion. You know it. He is coming.
The reason I talk about this today, is that you will be here too. You’ll be there, walking through the doors with him, jostling in the pew with him, following him off the parking lot. Why does he come? Why is he here?
He might be here out of some sense of “duty” to be in church at this holiday; he might be visiting from far away; he might be curious about what happens here; he might be at the end of his rope; he might finally be taking the step back after a long journey away. What does he find here when he comes?
Think about that. What do we offer him?
Why do you come? Why are you here?
We cannot transform anyone else if we are not first transformed ourselves. Jesus has already come and done that. He has joined you and me to God through the grace of the Incarnation. We are united with Him again in this Eucharist. Our lives should be completely changed, and that should be evident in our rejoicing today and always. We should be praying for him without ceasing. We should be giving thanks in all circumstances.
Even when he comes. Especially when he comes.
That is the only way he will know he came to the right place.