Let’s Not Rush Jesus, Shall We?

With over half a dozen radio stations moving into all-Christmas music formats these days and the malls filled with stuffed bears singing Christmas Carols and everyone generally getting into the holiday spirit with Thanksgiving squarely behind us and Advent just a day away, I have only one thing to say.

Stop rushing Jesus.

How often in our lives do we want God to come on our time? And what we most often find is that when God does actually enter into our lives (which is, in fact, daily) and we bother to notice God, that God is right on time.

Most often, my picture of God is in the person of Jesus. I can imagine Jesus walking with me in my most desperate hours and me asking Him why He has waited so long to intervene. And instead of some schmaltzy hallmark card answer like “those times when you see one set of footprints were the times I carried you,” I hear Jesus saying…

“Um, I’ve been right here all along, dumbass!”

Often people reach out to me when they are in great pain and I hope that most of the time I can journey with them in their pain. Because that is what I believe that God does with us as well. I know I’m far from good at this because most of the time I don’t want to be bothered–and even mores, I don’t want people to bother with me when I’m down and out. I choose to push people away and say that I can face matters all on my own.

And when you ask people who are facing suffering about their experience, most often their understandable reaction is that they feel God’s absence. As if God is a sadist and is the one inflicting their pain.

But the truth is that God suffers with us. God doesn’t like cancer, or car accidents, or when kids get shot in schoolhouses. God hates it just as much as we do when young people die accidentally, or someone commits suicide, or someone we love gets sick and never recovers.

And because God loves us enough to give us free will, inevitably bad things happen in the world. And faith calls us to trust that somehow, God redeems our suffering. That tragedy never has the final word and that evil really wants us to believe otherwise and keep us all in desolation.

We all hope to rush consolation..but suffering has a time commitment. We all need to take time to heal–to allow God to heal us, so that we might stand a bit stronger next time out, so that we might learn from mistakes we may have made, so that we might be a bit more sympathetic to others when they end up in the same boat.

And so we might realize that we are not God.

But that God loves us anyway and will redeem all that we suffer and cries when we cry.

We often want to hold someone in suffering and tell them that it’s OK. And the truth is that at the moment, it is very much not OK. Last year I watched a family howl in despair when they gathered to mourn the death of a young man. He was their son, their brother, the father of their child, a friend. A distinct voice of a young woman cried out “THIS IS NOT OK!”

And darn it, if she wasn’t right?

And I hope she knows this day, that God didn’t think it was OK either. None of us could rush her healing. None of us could bring God a bit closer to her in that pain. Desolation and grief are sometimes too overwhelming even for those of us with the strongest of faith.

But when we realize God’s care for us, God’s presence with us…

That’s when God comes right on time.

I believe that this is what Advent is all about. We wait for God, but most often, it is God who waits for us. God waits until consolation can show to us that God is already present. We wait for the mist to lift from the fogginess of our desolate doldrums, so that we might see a bit more clearly the tears of God, crying with us in our pain…crying out from the cross in agony when we are too, crucified by our own crosses.

And God hopes that our fears, our anger, our hatred at times, will not get the best of us.

My colleague, Fr. Tom Colgan, S.J. had a remarkable insight last week. He was meditating on the scene where the “bad” thief rebukes Jesus on the cross. He thought about this guy and the soldiers and all those who jeered at Jesus and mocked Him.

“Man, I hate those people!” he thought.

And the voice he heard from Christ on the Cross was: “I don’t.”

He then thought about all the people in his life who drive him crazy. And he felt the same anger and said “OK, maybe I don’t hate them, but I don’t like them very much.”

“I don’t.” Again, that same cry from the cross.

I took up this meditation myself recently. For me the scene had me at the foot of the cross feeling helpless. “There’s nothing I can do to change this!” was my only thought as tears streamed down my cheeks with John and Mary standing arm in arm with me.

“I can.” came the cry from the cross.

And then…”You just wait.”

Later I meditated on the journey that Mary and Joseph may have taken to bring the Christ-child into the world and I thought of Jesus stirring in Mary’s womb saying, “Don’t rush me, I’m right here and you just wait.”

Perhaps that is our need for this advent. To ask ourselves what is it that we are rushing in our lives? And what might we need to slow down and savor for just a few extra moments?

In those few extra moments, we will find God.

And it will be more than worth the wait.

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Eclipsing Advent?

Read this in a heavy Yiddish accent:

“And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”
– Elizabeth to Mary.

It makes the whole scene come alive, as if it were taking place in a Jewish deli in Crown Heights!

I’ve learned a lot from Jewish people over the years. Friends and colleagues and now even family have offered me much from their tradition. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from these folks is gratitude. When something wonderful happens, every Jewish person I know says the same thing!

Who am I? Why should this have happened to me?

And so Elizabeth’s greeting of Mary sharpens that scene with her own Jewish lilt:

Who am I that the mother of our Lord should come to me?

Who are any of us that God should come to us?

At mass today, Fr. Xavier reminded us of the truth of today’s gospel. Which is that in fact, God had been with His people all along. But now, God is no longer removed from human experience, God comes to us as a human being, a baby that needs the humanity surrounding Him for protection, but ironically it is us that end up needing the baby far more.

It’s easy for us to forget that we need God. It’s why these holidays are so important to celebrate. They remind. We bring God into our consciousness when we amble along in our own day to day lives. We forget about God so often that the church insists one returning to church once a week. Jesus reminds his disciples in the garden that they couldn’t stay awake for even an hour.

Perhaps advent is our opportunity to remind ourselves that God is in our midst always….not merely once a year at Christmas. It’s also an opportunity to remember that even when we do forget, God is always waiting for us.

The eclipsed spirituality that we all have from time to time means that other things in our lives often take precedence over our need to express our spirituality. The kids, the work, the to-do list, the never ending rat race…all of that muck.

But could it be? No, it can’t be…

Somewhere in the mess of our lives we find God in all of that activity!

We just need to be awake enough to notice it.

Mary DeTurris Poust,in her latest book, Cravings (full review coming in January), reminds us about the need for us to be mindful of God in the rhythm of our lives. We all need to eat and Mary reminds us of how the cycle of our meal preparations can take on a more prayerful meaning. Eating slowly and more purposefully, concentrating on the food can bring a sense of connecting with the divine and with gratitude in our lives.

I often eat breakfast alone. And as I do these days, I find myself falling into the silence of the morning and finding that time to pray amongst the bites. This afternoon my wife and I ate at a local Panera. I found myself taking a bite and clasping my hands…a prayer position and a healthier way to eat as well. It brought to mind the fact that the Holy Family may have been quite hungry that blessed night. Joseph worked hard and must have appreciated a good meal when he got one after a hard day and a long journey.

And the coffee clatch we see today of Mary and Elizabeth speaking of the miracle of God coming into our humanity—a huge surprise— gave me such joy to hear. How much they enjoyed each other’s company that day. Do we use a meal to connect with God and reconnect with one another, looking for God in our day? Or do we eclipse the spiritual moment and shovel food in our mouths and distract ourselves with texting or iPads, or sports scores or other “fillers” that don’t fill us at all?

This advent may our spirituality not become an eclipsed moment, but rather may all of our moments now become an opportunity to find God, lurking amongst us!

Emmanuel, God is with us! Alleluia!

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Advent is Here and BustedHalo® wants to know…

What Are You Waiting For? The BustedHalo® Daily Jolt Advent Calendar has arrived and is chock full of great advent quotes surrounding the theme of waiting.

The reality for most of us however is that Advent simply becomes the anxious weeks of shopping and holiday planning that precede Christmas Day. In the bustle of the holiday season, it is usually difficult to keep in mind what we are actually waiting for before Christmas. While many of us won’t be able to completely avoid the Christmas onslaught, it is still possible to maintain some connection to the spiritual foundation of the season. Our 2009 Advent Surprise Calendar is based on our popular Daily Jolt feature in which we offer readers a small bit of contemplation/inspiration and couple it with a “microChallenge” that encourages them to put these spiritual moments into action in their daily lives.

In traditional Advent Calendars, children open different calendar windows throughout the season to reveal special surprises. Busted Halo’s® Advent Calendar combines that sense of surprise with the opportunity for reflection and action found in our Daily Jolt feature the rest of the year.

Daily reflection, action and prizes
Each day of Advent, the calendar will open a new link to a chance at winning a great prize, an opportunity for reflection and a microChallenge. Like our Daily Jolt, the reflections chosen for the Advent Calendar come from some very unlikely sources, and the microChallenges help you to act on your spiritual inspiration in simple — usually very small — ways you’d probably never considered.

So check it out and come back each day to try to win something great.

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