Becoming small again
The Advent of the Christ child has finally begun! And while we should be seeking Jesus year-round, this period of mini-Lent provides us a season with a focus.
In a manner, Lent and Easter are seasons in which our awareness of God’s magnanimous power is grown. We see His “largeness”: in the thousands of disciples following Him, in His infinite virtue of humility, and in the depth of His love. On the other hand, Advent and Christmas are seasons to grow in profound understanding of God’s “smallness”. The king of the cosmos decided to become like one of us. He chose to use a human body, Mary’s, to conceive and grow a human nature in union with His Divine nature. He chose to come in the most vulnerable of ways: a baby in the womb. He would be completely dependent upon others even though His human intellect was filled with the Divine knowledge. Fully human, He would need to learn to appropriate that knowledge to human ways, beginning with feeding and pottying, then learning to read the very scriptures He gave to mankind. Eventually He would need to develop the skills to learn His foster father’s trade. He would advance in age and natural wisdom just as we do, only He would do so perfectly and fully.
Advent is a time for us, too, to grow in smallness. When we were small, we were sweet, innocent, and trusting. Jesus wants us to return to this smallness for “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Luke 18:16). He says, “you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1) because we truly do belong to Him and there is nothing in the world, nothing in the entire cosmos, that could ever take us away from Him. Nothing is more powerful than our Creator’s love for us.
While we bodily age in years, we are called to spiritually become that simple child again. Our lives are to be a never-ending journey of discovery, of hope, of renewal, of conversion. We are to be students of His love and teachers of it to others. But our lives are busy, full of work, shopping, and entertainment. Meanwhile, He is alone awaiting our return. He belongs in the palace of our heart yet instead is relegated to the outskirts of our life. Advent is the time to make Him the center of our life each day and send worldly attachments into exile.
A record book was written before him of those who fear the Lord and esteem his name. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my own special possession, on the day when I take action. (Malachi 3:16-17)
Our readings today remind us of the purpose to the Christian life, and to the Son of God becoming man. We await the prince of peace to be born while also awaiting for Him to bring that final peace when “one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again” (Isaiah 2:4). It is the “the hour now for you to awake from sleep” (Romans 13:11) because our worldly attachments have dulled us into a slumber. Ironically, the busier we are the more numb grows the heart. This permits the ‘thief’, the devil, to steal our soul even though we are fulfilling the precepts of the Church (mass, confession, tithing, etc.). However, if we become people of prayer, meaningful and honest prayer, our friendship with Jesus will become more actively lived every day. As the saints profess, Heaven is friendship with God; keeping conversation with Him through prayer makes Heaven our lived reality on earth. We may seem different to the world because we are different. Children of God, people of hope, we should emanate a joy based in peace from a lived faith.
This Advent, live differently. Stretch to bring our Catholic culture and heritage into this season and share it with others. Make ‘smallness’ your goal, and invite others to littleness too.
The only means of making rapid progress in the path of love is to remain always very little. (Saint Therese of Lisieux)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
(Image by Francesco Solimena, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
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