This past weekend, the senior class of Ascension Catholic School put on a different kind of spotlight at their retreat. One student would volunteer to sit in the midst of their peers, and then one by one the other students said what was positive about that student. It was a transforming experience for each student. Don’t we tend to be critical and harsh of others, but particularly much more with ourselves? So to hear someone praise who we are can be a moment that makes us blush. We are surprised by the goodness that is observed by others in us. One sadness from this experience is the realization that we don’t do this enough.
St. Paul speaks about this in the Second Reading. He says, “Brothers and sisters, may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Why did people flock to hear John the Baptist? He didn’t say anything that would please anyone. He put everyone in a spotlight that was uncomfortable; he urged everyone, without exception, to turn their lives around. Sin was ruining their lives, he said. He even singled out religious people as being presumptuous. Unless we turn our lives around and begin to seek and obey God’s will, saying the right things and doing the religious things are not enough. How many times have we said to ourselves, ‘I’m not perfect and I make mistakes here and there, but I really don’t need to change my life drastically. I really don’t need Jesus.’ Isn’t this presumption?
What are we doing during this Advent to change our hearts? If we are not careful during this hectic season, we will become so absorbed in our own little world of shopping, wrapping gifts, Christmas parties, and vacations. Then we will forget why this season is given to us. God desires an intimate relationship with us by giving His Son Jesus to us, yet what a tragedy when we want Christmas without wanting Christ. And without Christ, we cannot have a relationship with the Heavenly Father. Like Blessed Mother, let us long for the long-expected Savior. Like her, let us say “yes” to God during this Advent. In our “yes” to God, Jesus will come into our hearts just as he was born in Blessed Mother’s.