If we step back for a moment leaving the swirl of stressful chaos behind, we have to look at what these four weeks are about to begin with. It is not about doing so much as it is about preparing a state of heart so that we may be before God. As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Advent and all of our preparations are about the coming of the Son of God into our broken world. Liturgically, we are getting closer to radiant angels singing, awe-struck shepherds praising, and regal Magi adoring the tiny King of Kings and Lord of Lords lying in a manger. Therefore we have to keep the point of all of our preparations in mind. The reality is that we are awaiting Jesus to return someday. The Christmas meals and the gifts to be bought and wrapped are wonderful, but they are only reminders of something greater, of shared love. We must remember who it is that is the center of our preparations or we will lose our perspective and be overwhelmed. Something joyous is afoot.
St. Paul continues with this message in the second reading. He writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all….” (Philippians 4:4-7) St. Paul wrote this in a time of turmoil to remind the people to keep everything in perspective: Emmanuel is among us and will never leave us. He also emphasizes a connection between joy and kindness. That which we have received from God we share in gratitude. This brings us “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil 4:7) We hear the message that the coming of Jesus brings a peace which is not of human origin, but rather one which can only come from God. With Jesus in our midst, we need not be anxious about the future or filled with fear over the state of our world.
John knew that he was not the messiah and that his job was to point the people toward Jesus. I think that ought to be our perspective as well. We cannot do it all, nor are we expected to be someone that we are not. We can only do that to which we are called using the gifts we have been given. John models how to point others to Jesus by love and humility, and occasionally boldness in standing fast in our faith. He made it clear that Jesus would separate the good from the bad when the time came. Ours is not to judge, therefore; our job is to serve with love and act in the way we have been taught. We should be witnesses to Jesus according to our gifts, personality, and circumstances. We do not have to ‘do it all.’
What should we do? Rejoice in the many gifts of love, mercy, and goodness that we have because of the gift of our God. Rejoice in those whom we love and in those who love us. Rejoice in God who loves us so much that He bent low to become one of us. Rejoice because Jesus is very near. And rejoice because He rejoices in you.
©Michele L. Catanese
*Hark The Herald Angels Sing, verse 3. This reference comes from Malachi 3:20.
The top photo is one of mine, taken in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
After the Advent 3 candles is a photo I took of my Nativity set at home. While it may look a little odd for Mary and Joseph to be looking at an empty manger, the symbolism of waiting and longing is what this is about. He is coming soon!
Next is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called St. John the Forerunner Also the Baptist. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-john-the-forerunner-also-the-baptist-082-william-hart-mcnichols.html
The last two paintings are the work of Bl. Fra Angelico, who is one of my favorite artists of all time.
- The first of the two is The Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth. I chose this because it embodies everything about reaching out in humble service to one in need who in this case happens to be a distant relative. Mary had just heard that she would bear the Son of God and had become pregnant with Him and yet her first thoughts are not of herself, but of the cousin the angel said was with child. Mary has things in right perspective and therefore they both rejoice! http://www.wikiart.org/en/fra-angelico/visitation-1434
- The second painting is an inset of The Annunciation. It is a 'close-up' of the Archangel Gabriel as he announces to Mary that she will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and become the Mother of God. Gabriel's face radiates with joy; if you look closely you can see the hint of a smile and the joy in his eyes. http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3754342
Finally a note to all my Facebook friends, those who follow my blog using that medium: Facebook is very random about who sees what and for how long. I truly do not understand the way it 'decides.' Therefore, if you do not see my post announcement, simply go to either my Heart Speaks to Heart Facebook page to find it or go straight to my website: www.catanesesd.com and click on the "Michele's Blog" tab. If you follow me or my Heart Speaks to Heart page on Facebook you ought to receive it; or if you share the posts, it is supposed to make note of this and figure out that you are a regular reader. No matter what you do, I tend to post sometime on a Monday every week so if all else fails, check with me on Mondays. I am so grateful for your support and rejoice at your kindness! :)