It is not difficult to see that the season of Advent provides us with an interesting tension. On the one hand in the world of the season of Advent, the world of our faith in the world of our church, we are called to take a step back, to reflect, to pray. In the world in which we live, we are called to get ready for Christmas. We go shopping, we go to parties, we write Christmas cards, for we are all about the busyness of the season. Today’s celebration of St. John of the Cross reminds us that like Mary in the Gospels, the sister of Martha who listened to the words of Jesus instead of doing the necessary work of hospitality, we too choose the better part when we listen to the words of Christ.
Today’s gospel calls us to go even deeper. It reminds us of the importance not only of making time for God, but examining closely our priorities and our motives to discover meaning and purpose and direction in our lives. Failure to do so, at least for some of us, can mean that we move from thing to thing, from new piece of technology to new piece of technology, from new fashion to new fashion, from the rat race that causes us to see more and more stuff, means that we can move around together many things, without ever really being satisfied.
In fact, without a deep grounding in the gospel of Jesus, we can be like people who do not know whether they are sad or happy. We can be like people who see various examples of lives well lived in sadness and happiness, and judge them of our own insufficiency.
If there is a good news in this Advent season, and of course there are many, it is that in spite of this restlessness we have the ability to rest in God. If there is a message of the season of Advent, is that conversion is always possible. Again and again, we are told, God reaches out to us in covenant to help us to see the good news of his presence, and the salvation belongs to offer.
As we are focused on the example St. John of the Cross, that Carmelite father who with St. Teresa of Avila, reminded the Carmelites of their tremendous contemplative roots, and called them back to realize the great gift of silence. Those of us who share a different vocation, may not have the luxury of a Carmelites in sitting in silence with the presence of God. But the truth is, we have the same ability to access the presence of God in our own lives, and in so doing helping the world to regain hope that his incarnation brings.