Readings for Today
Probably everyone has had the experience of going to the eye doctor. When we go, we look at charts, get checked for Glaucoma, and undergo a variety of tests to make sure our vision is clear. For years, in my eye exams, I heard the eye doctor say, “Well, next year we will probably need to talk about reading glasses.” And the next year it turned out my eyes were fine. But, eventually, age caught up with me and his words were true. I needed them.
Using reading glasses, my eyes are now more effective, and I can read things more easily. My vision has become more in focus. At the beginning of this Church year, we are ready for a “spiritual eye exam”, so that we may discover how well we view the world with the eyes of faith. Are we able to see the presence of Jesus in our day to day lives, and the abundant grace that is poured out generously for us.
The first reading from Isaiah uses an image of climbing a mountain that will have all types of amazing things available for us. If you have ever had the experience of being on a mountain top, you know that it provides a distinct view of the earth, one that is not possible if we are looking from somewhere else. By reminding us of the mountain top that we are called to imagine at the end of time, we are reminded that we have a God of excessive love. The images of food and drink imply quite the feast.
In the gospel, Jesus describes people in previous ages that did not see too well. He reflects upon the time of Noah, and how people went on with their lives oblivious to the signs that things were changing. To be sure, picturing Noah building an ark on dry land must have captured the attention of many that Noah was “not all there”, for people of faith they saw in his work the image of salvation.
St. Paul tells us “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”. How is that? Does Jesus save us more over time? No, it is the case that we are called to see more clearly the good news of the grace that is super abundant in our lives. To be sure, Advent celebrates the coming of Jesus in a variety of ways. First, we are invited to consider the historical birth of Jesus, and we look to prepare for that celebration. Second, we celebrate the anticipation of Jesus at the end of time. But we also acknowledge a third way in which Jesus comes into our world, that is, the way in which Jesus come into our lives in a personal way.
Indeed St. Paul invites us to recognize that we need to do certain things to become more aware of God’s grace. “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.” Putting on the deeds of daylight also implies the ways in which we put ourselves in a place to receive God’s grace.
Some of us may remember praying in an Act of Contrition avoiding the near occasion of grace. Advent calls us to place ourselves in the occasion of grace, to find those ways when the spirit of God becomes more deeply evident in the ways we live our lives. Placing ourselves in the occasion of grace is not easy. Rather, it becomes a challenge, especially in a culture that sees the days and weeks before Christmas as simply preparation for consumerism to take greater root in our lives.
Perhaps this Advent you might consider the occasions of grace that are available to you. You might choose to read the Bible a bit more, or go to daily Mass, or seek out a way to do a good deed for another. The way in which we seek out the occasion of grace is to avail ourselves of the counter-cultural voice of Advent that encourages us into the stillness and the silence.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis encourages us to a personal encounter with Jesus. To use an analogy, the personal encounter with Jesus is like the improved eyesight we get with glasses. When we encounter Jesus personally, in the sacraments, or in prayer, or in others, this personal encounter changes us, and our lives fall into place.