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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Advent is a time to sharpen our longing for the Lord

Notice how He’s coming into our lives and help others become aware

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I wonder if we’ve thought much about the spirituality of time and place. The readings this week invite us to do so.

One of the phrases we hear repeatedly from the prophet Isaiah this week is: “On that day…” Psalm 72 reinforces this with the refrain: “Justice shall flourish in his time…” There’s clearly a spirituality of time at work here.

Another of the phrases we hear from Isaiah throughout the week is: “On this mountain…” Both Psalm 23 and Psalm 122 reinforce that with refrains that speak about going to or dwelling in “the house of the Lord.” Clearly there’s a spirituality of place at work here.

When the readings from Isaiah and the Psalms focus on this sense of time and place, however, it’s always by way of anticipation: They’re waiting for something that the Lord is going to do.

It’s fascinating, then, in the middle of the week, when the Gospel reading from Matthew starts out: “At that time, Jesus…went up the mountain.” Matthew’s Gospel is filled with patterns of prophecy and fulfillment, and this is another example. The Hebrew Scriptures had fostered an anticipatory spirituality of time and place. Jesus, Matthew is pointing out, now fulfills that anticipation. “At that time, on this mountain,” Jesus healed the sick and then multiplied loaves and fishes to feed a hungry crowd. This is the time and place of the Lord’s promised intervention!

With a simple pivot, St. Bernard gives us a beautiful way to turn that into a spirituality for Advent. He says, simply: “We know that there are three comings of the Lord.” The first was the coming of the Son in the flesh. The last is the coming of Jesus at the end of time. But the middle one is when Jesus comes into our hearts, into our lives.

St. Bernard’s idea has a beautiful continuity with the spirituality of time and place in the Scripture readings this first week of Advent. The time is now; the place is my own heart! The Jewish people longed for the coming of the Messiah, and Jesus came to fulfill that longing. Now we long for Him to come into our hearts, and Advent is a time to sharpen both that longing and our noticing the ways He’s coming into our lives.

All of this pertains to our new focus on evangelization in a twofold way.

The first is by listening. Are we prepared to ask people about that middle coming of Jesus? We might do so with two simple questions: How has Jesus been coming into your life this week? Or, how do you experience yourself longing for the coming of Jesus into your life these days?

The second is by speaking. Are we prepared to talk to people about the middle coming of Jesus in our own lives? Can we speak about the longing of our own hearts or the ways that Jesus has been coming into our own lives?

I hope this Advent will help us to develop a deeper spirituality of time and place.

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