The Dawn from on high will visit us, guiding our feet in the way of Peace. Luke 1:78-79
Have you ever longed for something so unattainable and yet so desirable? I certainly have. Over the years, I have longed for miracles that would never come about, for favors that had no fruition, for good things that never took place.
From the earliest days of my ministry, people have asked me to pray for them, people who wanted healing from a terminal illness, people whose family members have turned away from God and the Church, people who wanted a good spouse, a happy marriage and, most of all, people who wanted children, but couldn’t have them.
As we enter the fourth week of Advent, the Mass offers us to very similar stories, two families who were childless, two good families who had been faithful to God all their lives, but felt cursed because they did not have children; two families that prayed for the impossible and unattainable, but prayed nevertheless.
The first reading is taken from the Book of Judges. We meet a woman but not given her name. She prayed for a child, and God heard her plea. Not only did God gifted her with a son, but one who was to save his people from their enemies. God may keep us in the dark for a while, but “the Dawn will break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1: 78 – 79
The second reading gives a similar story, this time taken from the Gospel according to Luke. Again, we enter the intimate lives of two good people, husband and wife, now elderly and childless. By this time, they may have given up on their dream to have a family. Yet, they remain faithful to God and God’s covenant. Again, God breaks into their lives by granting them their greatest longing, a son. Again, this son will have a special place in the Salvation of the World.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser says that Advent is more about “longing” than a time of penance. There is no contradiction here. The more we long for something, the more penitential we become. We long to lose weight, and we curb our appetite. We long to take a well-deserved vacation, and we save accordingly. We long for Peace, and we become Peace-makers, setting aside anger, revenge, and retaliation. We long to be with God and we discipline ourselves to pray daily. It is our longing that makes our penance meaningful.
Let us join our faith community, who longs for the coming of Christ, by preparing prayerfully and wholeheartedly for the coming of the Baby Jesus!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.