I’ve decided to take a deeper turn in this Advent blog.
As I get closer to Christmas, my prayer is opening up to two things in the last few days.
(1) a deeper realization of my sinfulness and frail human nature; this has caused me depression and pain and soul-searching.
and (2) an ongoing surrender to the process of transformation that is occurring in me as I turn my life and my will over to my Higher Power.
That, ongoing dual process — “a kind of coincidence of opposites,” dear friends, is what gives meaning and joy to my life.
The Church invites us to enter into that process of ongoing repentance and conversion each year during Advent.
To step out of the rat race. To take a look at our the maneuvering / scheming / elbowing / for status or power or success or prestige or any of the things that we are told we’re supposed to have in our American society today to make us happy.
The wise person realizes they won’t!
Let’s reflect a little more on what we can learn from John the Baptist what it’s all about:
He was a pretty successful preacher. People were streaming out into the desert to listen to him; he was persuasive. People were willing to change their lives after listening to him.
But he didn’t let it go to his head. He realized what his role was. He was just the “advance man.” And was content with that.
He knew who he was. He didn’t let success go to his head. He didn’t want to be the star. Even though many thought he was “The Man.”
The saying of John that I love and pray often myself is:“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
My spiritual director reminds me all the time to stay focused on Jesus. To make all my plans provisional.
“To seek through prayer and meditation knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry it out.” (Eleventh Step of Alcoholics Anonymous)
I was a young ,cool, creative priest. I was a rising star. I thought I was pretty hot stuff.
A bishop once told my father, “He’ll be a bishop someday.”
But God had other plans.
I ended up strapped to a gurney with a massive shot of thorazine in you-know-where and have had several bouts of the crazies in 32 years.
Today, I’m just a little guy, content with a tiny flock to care for and writing a little blog few know about.
Arrogance was my greatest character defect and it has taken till recently to whittle that away.
And so today I pray with the one who cried in the wilderness:
Jesus, You are the light of my life.
Without You I would be nowhere. Nada. Nothing.
And that’s fine with me.
(And to tell ya the truth, I’m amazed at that! That’s quite a transformation for me!
I want You to be in all my relationships,
in all of my writing,
You help me to be humble, Lord. You cast me down and raised me up again.
You chastise me; You heal me.
With St. Paul, You have helped me realize that in the midst of my brokenness,
it was — and is — You who make me strong.
Not in the ways of this world, with ambition or striving for power or success or influence,
but in knowing You are right here: You are enough for me, Lord.
Whatever flows from my relationship with You will be good as I allow You more and more to increase
and allow my false self, my little (Big) ego to fall away.
To be humble is to be close to the “humus” — “muck”.
So, I’m content with the muckiness of my life. I have always hated when people put me on a pedestal like a plaster statue.
I’m just as sinful as anyone else. I don’t pretend not to be.
And yet, You have surprised me / delighted me / ravished me
with Your love and helped me accept my humanity / my fragility / my sins;
And you know what? There, I found You!
You raised me up! You drew me to Yourself!
You bound up my wounds! You clothed me with LOVE!
What a joy!
And now I’m eager to share Your Love.
To help everybody realize that You love each and everyone — no matter what.
But You want us to love You in return.
Yes, Lord Jesus, You must increase; I must decrease.
Let me never ever forget that. No matter what.
In the coming days I will try to have you take a deeper look at the mystery of the Incarnation — God’s love affair with our messy /mucky / crazy (at least I admit it!!) human race as it is appears in Luke’s story that God came into our world as a vulnerable, homeless baby who cooed and pooped in his pants like the rest of us. That story — even if you just look at it as a story — has much to teach us. Let’s take a fresh look at it and go down to a deeper level. We’ll do that in the next week.
Here is a YouTube orchestral and voice arrangement of J. S. Bach’s lovely Advent piece Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.
priest / writer