“Think about it, there must be a higher love – down in the heart or hidden in the stars above. Without it, life is wasted time. Look inside your heart and I’ll look inside mine…” Steve Winwood
The Joyful Season of Advent is upon us. Matthew’s gospel puts us right in the tension that exists in our world today with the suffering and those who can make a difference in their lives. This Advent is for us to take time to search, dialogue and be renewed. We are to make room for something wholly unexpected and transcendent, a higher love that interrupts our lives and forever changes our destiny and that of the world. Together we, the community of Holy Family, seek to encounter and witness to “a higher love.”
Therefore, let us: awaken to see that black people are still victims of racism and sometimes it seems as if their lives don’t matter; that women still face discrimination and too many live in a culture of violence; that LGBTQ people often do not feel accepted or safe; that acts of anti-Semitism still exist along with a rising voice of white supremacy; that income inequality is growing; that we often fear those who think and act differently from us; that we have not always welcomed the foreigner and have turned away the refugee; that we have not responded to the pain and needs of the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and those in need of medical care; that we have failed to see the depth of hurt, anger, and frustration in this country; that we are, at times, a divided United States; and that we may all wake up and see all human life as sacred and fragile.
These are not issues to be solved, agendas to be pursued, or problems to be fixed. These are real people whose lives are fragile and sacred; just as fragile and sacred as our own lives. How can we live a higher love in an unknown and uncertain future? Advent reminds us to see one another and ourselves through the lens of our baptism. It means returning to the waters of our baptism where we promised to proclaim, by our words and example, the Good News of God in Christ Jesus. It is where we promised to seek and serve Christ in all persons, not just the persons of our party, our race, our religion, our country, but all persons. It is where we promised to love our neighbors as ourselves; where we promised to strive for justice and peace for all people; and promised to respect the dignity of every human being.
Our baptismal waters may have dried, but our promises remain eternal, just as God’s promises are eternal in us. This coming of Advent has set before us a context for our baptismal work. This is the unexpected hour. Now is the moment for us to wake from our sleep (Romans 13:11). Reclaiming our baptism may just be the most important work we can do throughout this Advent season. It is our work for one another and for Christ. Let us begin by promising to persevere in resisting evil and, whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord. What if we let Advent be a time where we live out our baptismal vows, allowing them to guide our actions, determine our words and establish our priorities? What would that mean for us? What would it call forth from us? What would it demand of us? What might we need to change? What would we need to let go of or give up? How would we do life and politics differently? What would it take for us to fulfill our baptismal promises in today’s circumstances?
Advent invites us to enter this moment, this hour, this day, as the only one in which we have the potential for clarity, the opportunity to make a change, the ability to do things differently. We face the uncertainty and the unknowability of our future by living faithfully in the present. That means we must remain vigilant. We must stay awake and be watchful. We must first be watchful of what is going on inside of us; our thoughts, fears, anger, the emotions that overtake us, the choices we make, the words we speak, the actions we take. Do they align with our baptismal vows? Are they congruent with the life of Christ? Do they show us to be followers of Jesus or partisan proponents? We must also be watchful for the divine presence in the other; the divine presence in our neighbor, in the stranger, in the foreigner, in our enemy; the divine presence in those who think and act differently from us; the divine presence in those who do not worship or believe as we do; the divine presence in the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the refugee, the marginalized, the oppressed; the divine presence in those whose choices and lifestyles are not our own; the divine presence in all of humanity.
The very unexpectedness of the divine presence coming in another human being, especially one who is different from us, demands that we be awake and watchful because if we are not, we will surely miss it. It means trading our words and acts of violence for words and actions that grow, sustain and nourish life. “Lord, Bring Us To A Higher Love This Advent Season.”