Have you ever been in Mass, listened carefully and intently to the readings and after said to yourself, “Where was that going?” Me too. I used to have such a difficult time connecting the scriptural dots. I couldn’t make sense of what seemed to be unrelated Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel passages. Then I had an ah-ha moment. Our Mass readings are a Liturgical GPS! They are a map. They give us a starting point, a direction and a destination. They lead us and guide us on a clear and definite route. Put together, they point us toward deeper insights, fuller understandings, points of contemplation, greater truths, and always, ultimately, to our real destination: intimacy with the Lord.
This Advent’s readings are a perfect example of what I mean. They are GPS on steroids. Watch what the first reading says. “You Lord are our FATHER, our REDEEMER you are named forever…” Father! That word is translated abba, which means “papa.” How tenderly our Father loves us. How desperately he wants to be with us, loving us, caring for us, showering us with every blessing. But, in truth, many of us don’t know how fiercely he loves us. We don’t relate to him as papa. He seems distant, removed, cold and uninvolved, even irritated. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Our Father, our papa, adores us. He dotes on us. He loves us so much that he sent Jesus to Redeem us, to buy us back. We were bought for a price and a precious one at that — His only Son. What enormous value we have to God, what immeasurable worth.
Far from being a disappointment or a nuisance to our father, we are the apple of his eye, the desire of his heart, the center and purpose for all of salvation. Our Father wanted his family reunited and restored. Because of the fall, we were separated from him and he wanted us back. Only One could sufficiently satisfy the redemption fee: Jesus. What an unimaginable exchange. Me, you, for Jesus? Really? We are that valuable? Yes, we are. To our Father we are that valuable.
Advent is that incredible and exhilarating time when we anticipate our redemption, our buy-back. It is that period when we evaluate, if we can just grasp it, the enormity of our worth to God and the price he was willing to pay to hold us in his loving embrace forever. So, you’d think our ransom would arrive in great pomp and circumstance, in grandeur and ceremony. Oddly, He did not.
When our Redeemer first came, he was surprisingly born in a stable. Mysteriously, God sent Jesus, our Savior, the sacrifice for us, to a stinky, messy barn. Why in the world did he do that? In Advent the mystery is solved. Jesus is not coming to a barn again. He is asking to come and be birthed in our stinky, messy hearts and lives. He is asking us if we will make room for him, not in the palace of our goodness, but in the mess of our brokenness and sin. He paid dearly to free us from our slavery to pride, ego, impatience, selfishness, greed, lust, anger and everything in us that is unlike him. Advent is the time during which we accept his offer, agree to the exchange, and invite him in to our barn. Live here, Jesus. Live your life in me and through me. Help me, this Advent, to open every area of my life to you no matter how noxious it may be. Help me to comprehend how much you love me. Come, Lord Jesus, be born in me.
Sister Brigid O’Mahony, MHJ, teaches theology at Seton Catholic Central in Binghamton.