By Sister Vilma Alayo
This is the third reflection in our 2019 Advent blog series.
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Christmas, the great celebration is upon us … and how should we prepare ourselves?
This week of Advent invites us to joy, and the liturgy brings it to us from the words of Isaiah. “Here is your God … who comes to save you,” “the eyes of the blind will be opened … the tongue of the mute will sing,” vibrant signs that reveal to us the presence of God, loving and compassionate. Similarly, in the Gospel of Matthew, we hear John the Baptist repeating this message, calling us to prepare for the coming of the Lord, a Lord who confirms his presence with works and signs that emanate from his healing and liberating love—signs that a prophet, another man or woman of God, can recognize as signs of a savior’s presence. Jesus, God with us, redeems everything that clouds the life of a human being, the bodily troubles and the illnesses that, in that era, were seen as signs of sin; this same saving presence thereby instills life: dignified, fraternal, harmonious.
Reflecting upon these passages in Isaiah and Matthew allows us to contemplate how God arrives and penetrates our lives with great love, with a joyful, serene, profound presence, which, through our faith, renews the happiness in our identity as Christians, and imparts it upon the hearts of those who do not yet have the joy of recognizing it. In this sense we have work to do and we are called to live joyfully within ourselves and project that joy externally, with the poor and those suffering so many difficulties—sadness, depression, disenchantment— and therefore so deprived of happiness.
This is why, right here, we must ask ourselves: When we meet them, how do they see us? Might they awaken and smile if they see our faces, seeing that we’re living our lives as Christians? Is it joy experienced as fleeting pleasure, or are we expressing an attitude, a path, a mystery, that which the Teacher lived and demonstrated unconditionally even in those most crucial moments? He did not fail to be joyful; we see it manifested in the meaning he gave to his life, to each event, to everything, all based in love. As a result, joy becomes the thermometer that measures our charity, the alert when it is absent, and something that in these times urges us to consider: Where am I seeking it and what causes me to lose it?
Finally, we can preserve this viewpoint and continue discovering in the Gospel of this season how Jesus continues to be present in our lives with signs of tender love, characteristic of the joy with which he lived, the fruit of the Spirit, which resides in his faithful connection with his Father. Jesus, the incarnate son of God, is the origin and strength of this authentic joy for each of us and allows us to remain and make his word our own: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15: 11)