Chapter Talk – Third Sunday of Advent – December 13, 2020, cycle-B
We are given hopeful and evocative images from the first reading for this Third Sunday of Advent: “In my God is the joy of my soul” (Is 61:10). Well, why? What elicits this burst of joy? “For God has robed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice” (Is 61:10). This is the promise of the Coming One. Salvation will be bestowed, accompanied by a ‘mantle of justice’. A mantle of justice covering our earth, falling like snow, wrapping us all in its power to heal and to change all of our lives. This Christ birth comes with the power for growth and change: it begins with each one of us, and it will happen in spite of ourselves!!! “As the earth brings forth its plants…so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations” (Is 61:11).
With each passing week of Advent, we are leaning more and more into the ‘miracle’ that is to happen: the bestowing once again of God’s life upon humanity. Here is Hans Urs von Balthasar’s reflection on the first reading: “We anticipate God not with fear and trembling but with rejoicing…The coming of the Lord’s messenger will mean healing and liberation to all who are poor, brokenhearted, imprisoned, and captive. This ‘year of the Lord’s favor’ applies to all of us, for all of us are imprisoned by ourselves and captivated by ourselves; far from being uninjured, all of us are so fractured and poverty-stricken that we cannot heal ourselves. Yet it is not by means of a strange miracle outside us that God will accomplish healing, rather God works from within us, just as an organism heals from the inside out. Since God has implanted his Holy Spirit in our hearts, his Spirit can transform us from the inside: ‘as the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up’” (Light of the Word, p.152-153). Indeed, we hear, we see life outside of ourselves. And equally as true, we see, we hear life inside ourselves. More often though we are pulled outward. However, this Advent time continues to call us inward. The ear and eye of the heart are so important to witness and behold that gentle, soft, quiet movement of the Spirit within ourselves. The ‘coming’ miracle moves from inside out….As it changes us, we concomitantly become vessels of the Divine life for one another, for our world…but this Life lives and grows first from within.
Von Balthasar continues: “The God who created us is not distant or estranged from our innermost person, rather, he holds the key to our most hidden depths; only later do we perhaps notice that God has been at work in us for some time” (p.153). Why do we search so often outside of ourselves for what it so near, so close…as close as each heartbeat?
Our own Bernard of Clairvaux in his Advent sermon says: “If you wish to meet God, go as far as your own heart” (Advent Sermon, #1). This is where the Divine miracle will happen. He continues with these well-known words: “O humankind, you need not sail across the seas or pierce the clouds or cross the Alps! No grand way is being shown to you. Run to your own self to meet your God! The Word is near you, on your lips and in your heart! [Romans 10:8]”. This is why, is it not, that this Sunday is Gaudate Sunday…a time of joy and praise upon our lips…God is with us and God will be even more with us…let us be still, experience, ‘know’ and rejoice…let us run…run to where? Let us run to our truest self for there we will find and be found…there will be the Love sought and the Love found, there will be the healing needed and the healing given…there the light of life will be found shining even brighter, eliciting hope and casting aside our fears. To repeat what von Balthasar said: “All of us are imprisoned by ourselves and captivated by ourselves”. Salvation is coming…to you, to me, to all of humankind….Be still my heart, and wait in this pregnant time when our God who is with us, will be manifested once again within the utter need of our own poverty.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess