Second Sunday of Advent 2011 Year B:
Just like last week, our opening prayer is quite beautiful, and it captures something essential to the season of Advent: may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in hast to meet your Son, but may our learning of heavenly wisdom gain us admittance to his company. Beautiful to be sure, and it reminds us of two important facts about Advent: first, it is easy to get distracted, second the learning of heavenly wisdom is the key to overcoming distractions and entering into Christ's presence.
It is no secret that this is a busy time of year. We are hustling from one place to the next. There are Christmas parties, Christmas programs, athletic events, social events, end of semester exams, papers, all thrown on top of our normally busy schedule. During the midst of all this craziness, we are supposed to be celebrating Advent. Advent is the season where we are preparing ourselves to celebrate the feast of Christmas, but also it is the season where we reflect on the fact that Jesus will return again, asking ourselves if we are prepared to welcome Christ when he comes again. It seems like incredibly poor timing: how are we supposed to have a reflective peaceful season where we evaluate our preparedness to welcome Christ during the busiest month of the year? Wouldn't it be better to have Advent in January when nothing is going on?
But, there is a key point to be learned here. I have often quoted Bishop Sheen who once famously said that everyone in the world needs 30 minutes of prayer every day, unless you are busy. Then you need an hour! It seems counterintuitive, but the busier we are, the crazier our lives become the more we need to focus on our relationship with Christ. Because the truth of the matter is that we are always busy, our lives are always crazy, there is no such thing as some ideal time for a spiritual relationship with Christ. Rather, we must learn to encounter Christ in the midst of our everyday live. This is why Advent is such a great time of year, because it should teach us to seek Christ even when life is crazy, again our opening prayer is so timely: may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet Christ.
Second, important in all of this is the learning of heavenly wisdom. Our readings today provide us with some great examples of the kind of wisdom we really need. The first reading is a great reading, if you are like me you cannot help but hear the refrains from Handel's Messiah during the reading of this scripture: comfort ye, my people… It is a wonderful reminder that God does not forget his people. Yet, if we know some of the background it becomes even more amazing. This prophecy was given to the people during the Babylonian Captivity, during the Exile, the darkest hour in the history of the people of Israel, what is God's response? Comfort!!! This is the kind of wisdom we need during advent: no matter how crazy your life is, no matter your difficulties and shortcomings: God does not forget us, he sends us his comfort his peace.
How do we allow the peace to enter into our lives? John the Baptist tells us: prepare the way for the Lord. Again, this is heavenly wisdom! We must open our hearts, open our minds, we must prepare a way for the comfort and peace of Christ to come into our lives by turning away from sin, by repenting and believing in the good news. The more we can be open to the wisdom that Christ gives us in the scriptures, through the teaching of the Church, through our participation in the Liturgy, the more we will prepare a way for the Lord, the more we will learn heavenly wisdom, which will allow us to set out in haste to meet Christ when he comes again.