Most of us are now in full swing holiday-mode, busy with our preparations for Christmas; buying gifts, planning menus for our family parties, decorating our homes, gingerly dusting off our nativity set to place under our tree. This is also the time of year we usually see more guests and fresh faces among us at Mass – during our short 22-28 day (depending on the year) season of preparation called “Advent.” The word “Advent” stems from the Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival.” We commonly understand this to mean preparing for the coming of Jesus; the great feast of the Incarnation that we celebrate on Christmas day in which we recognize “God with us” breaking into our very own history as a vulnerable infant to show us the way, the truth and the light – and to reveal to us our OWN light as God’s beloved.
Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ writes in his book Tattoos on the Heart: “Jesus said ‘You are the light of the world.’ I like even more what Jesus doesn’t say. He does NOT say ‘one day, if you are more perfect and try really hard, you’ll be light.’ He doesn’t say ‘if you play by the rules, cross your T’s and dot your I’s, then maybe you’ll become light.’ No. He says straight out “YOU. ARE. LIGHT. It is the truth of who you are, waiting only for you to discover it.” Opening ourselves to this, the vital nucleus of the gospel that Jesus was sent to tell us, is truly the preparation most needed in our hearts and homes this holy season.
But, alas, each one of us a mix of Mary and Martha, a contemplative in action, right? So, yes, of course, we need to prepare by spending time in prayer, sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary so we may hear afresh how much we are loved and cherished by our maker – because the gift we don’t receive we certainly don’t have to give. But we also need to be in touch with our inner Martha and consider what we are to DO to prepare for our guests; those who are coming, arriving, “adventing” if you will, to hear this good news?” And this is an important question, because for many, Christmas is the only day of the year that they come to pray with us and to hear this good news proclaimed to them – and this proclamation starts with us! In the parking lot!
Think about it. When someone comes to your home for the first time you take extra care to make sure they have good directions, know where to park; you turn the porch light on and greet them at the door, right? How might we do the equivalent here at our CTR home? How might we “roll out the red carpet” so to speak for our guests? To help each person who walks through our doors feel SO welcome that they can’t help but recognize the love of God through our gestures, words and actions? As St. Teresa of Avila says “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world…Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world…you are his body.”
So, let’s ponder and pray together about how we, as a community, as the body of Christ, can ready our home here at CTR and be intentional about reaching out to our visitors; to concretely “welcome the stranger” and let our “light shine” as Jesus would encourage us to do.