Reflection: Third Sunday of Advent
By: Sister Janelle Maes | December 17, 2017
Tis the season full of the expectation of peace, hope, and joy. The first reading tonight tells us God will raise up a prophet like Moses and then John the Baptist appears in the next reading proclaiming the Good News. Tomorrow we have Isaiah telling us “The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to prisoners.” John, Jesus and now we are the messengers/prophets God has/is choosing. We are to bring glad tidings and how do we do this.
First, we do it by really living the life we have chosen. Our witness is a counter-cultural lifestyle of simplicity, celibacy and obedience that hopefully radiates peace and joy to all we meet. In the midst of today’s turmoil (and is there ever a time without turmoil?) we stand to say there is still hope, joy, and peace.
Then we do it with God’s grace---“making straight the way of the Lord.” We know that Christ has been born in us and continues to live in the humble dwelling of our personalities, our selves. What could be more joyful and life-giving news than that? Our ministry is to make that known to all. Christmas is always with us as we find Christ in ourselves and in one another. That beautiful poem of Hopkins tells us:
“the just man
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is---
Christ---for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”
(As Kingfishers Catch Fire)
And here in this chapel, we witness Christ in all of us, “Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.” That does not mean we are all the same Christ clone. Oh, no, our God does more than that for us. Our personalities are ours and Christ shines through them, does not overlook them, or blot them out. For example, my Janelleness is stable within me. However, hopefully some good shines forth that tells you that Christ is in the midst of Janelle with all her faults and eccentricities. Sometimes we may not recognize Christ in someone. That could be the transformation is not yet complete in us or that too much of them (such as too much Janelle) is showing. As John said, “I must decrease, so He can increase.” That is so true.
So as we look over the chapel, there’s Christ “beside us, before us, above us, within us, in quiet, in danger, in hearts of all that love us, in mouth of friend or stranger.” So with that, is it possible for us to “Rejoice always… Pray without ceasing” as Paul says?
So how does Christ become enfleshed in our hearts? Again Paul says “Do not quench the Spirit…Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” Benedict tells us how to do this with the chapters on good works (4) and the one on good zeal (72). When we recognize Christ in all---the refugee, the poor, the transsexual, one another we are carrying out the Good News. We, like John, don’t put on any airs; we are not Christ, Elijah, or some exciting newsworthy person. We are just us! We are the “voice of one crying in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.” Let Christ be born in you and you will know peace and joy.
The beautiful hymn of Aelred-Seton Shanley talks about Christmas being every day:
From earth, the Word drew nourishment,
From us, the body we possess;
Our sun provided warmth and light---
With these the Word took on our flesh.
…Yet still we scarce believe our worth:
But pregnant, full, the Word here dawns,
And yearns in us to come to birth.
So I experience Christ’s coming every day in Marcia and Mary Liz who sit by me in choir; in Elizabeth, Susan, Patricia and Irene who work with me and in all of you who I meet throughout the day. I can say with Hopkins:
I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke poor potsherd, patch, matchwork, immortal diamond
Is immortal diamond.
That is the Good News we proclaim with our lives and we can scarce believe our worth.