Find God in this Moment

12-01-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Situational awareness and mindfulness are two concepts that are often talked about today, and people encourage us to practice these mind issues in our daily lives. I also like the saying about wherever we find ourselves, there we are. In this coming month we are rolling up to Christmas. Most of us are busy thinking a lot about this event, which is four weeks from now. We do not really think about now, today, this moment. This First Sunday of Advent, the scripture asks us to be where we are in this moment, this day as we light a single bright candle in the Advent wreath to break up the darkness. We are really being asked to consider God’s salvation, which dawns on us right here where we are.

The prophet Isaiah offers us in the first reading, in very poetic and elegant words, the first image of a messianic time. Know also that vision is echoed in the angelic greetings of the Incarnation: “Peace on earth to those on whom God’s favor rests.” Isaiah’s vision has all nations streaming up the high mountain with all the people coming with their work tools. His vision has the very tools of war transformed and thus there will be no more war. For the great the messianic time will be a time of peace and justice among all nations.

Matthew’s Gospel was written at a time when a good many followers of Jesus still looked forward to his immediate Second Coming. Some of these followers thought that they should do nothing and simply wait for the great coming of the Lord. Matthew has Jesus address this great difficulty with the story of Noah. The people of Noah’s time were people who were oblivious to the things of God or obligations towards others. They did nothing. Note the seeming tranquility of the inhabitants of the earth, who appeared to be ordinary people pursuing their ordinary lives. This was not the problem. The problem was they were so occupied as to be “totally unconcerned,” presumably about the things of God and about their obligations toward others. These people drifted into a state of oblivion or shallow silliness and failed to discern what a people with a soul should be expected to discern. Alas, so few saw impending trouble. We are familiar with Noah, who saw, understood and acted.

The problem of the end times had to be solved, and thus Matthew reminds people that Jesus expects people to keep working and carrying on. Matthew writes: “When the Lord comes, the one who is awake to God’s enduring presence will be ready and welcoming; the other will not.”

It is popular, and perhaps fun for the preacher, to shout out images of fire and brimstone and also evoke dire warnings and apocalyptic visions of world catastrophe. These supposedly are to be part of the Second Coming. We should not get lost in this maelstrom of threat and darkness; we should not let the threat of fear dominate our lives as Jesus does not address us in these fearful ways at all. Instead, we should to pay close attention to the graced movement of God in our midst. We are to find God in our daily lives. This is exactly where the Incarnation of God occurs. Although Advent is a time of preparation for Celebration of the Feast of the Nativity, we need also to live in this moment, seeking to find and embrace the ways of the Incarnated God in our midst.

Father Brian