December 14, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

God is waiting for us to find him this Advent

We prepare to celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. Once more, we will celebrate the birthday of Jesus.

The birth of a child is a joyous occasion in any circumstance. The birthday of the Son of God brings us to our knees. We are awed by the fact that God would become one of us and do so in a most humbling manner.

The fact that Jesus, God and man, would become dependent as a child is a cause for wonder and admiration at the humility of God. His infant birth is truly a prophecy of the manner in which his life among us would unfold.

As revealing as God becoming man is for us, for the most part it is also a mystery of hidden divinity. Advent, therefore, is a time of preparation once more for our reflection about the revelation of the

Son of God as a baby boy who is at once powerless as a dependent infant and almighty as the Savior of our human family.

This paradox of God becoming one of us is both a call to faith and a celebration of God, who is willing to become lowly for the sake of our salvation. The mystery moves us to our knees to reflect on the awesome gift that has been romanticized over the centuries.

Yet the hidden Godhead is also a stumbling block for some. Advent is given to us as a gift by the Church to reflect on this beautiful mystery of the son of God becoming like us in every way but sin. It is therefore also a gifted time for us to reflect and pray in order to strengthen our faith in the child who became our Savior.

In an earlier book, Co-workers of the Truth, published in 1992, the future Pope Benedict XVI wrote about the wonder of the birth of the God-man born as a boy child.

He narrates a story. “God has become man. He has become a child. Thus he fulfills the great and mysterious promise to be Emmanuel. By becoming a child, he offers us the possibility of being on familiar terms with him. I am reminded here of a rabbinical tale recorded by Elie Wiesel. He tells of Jehel, a little boy, who comes running into the room of his grandfather, the famous Baruch.

“Big tears are rolling down his cheeks. And he cries, ‘My friend has totally given up on me. He is very unfair and very mean to me.’ ‘Well, could you explain this a little more?’ asks the master. ‘Okay,’ responds the little boy. ‘We were playing hide and seek. I was hiding so well that he could not find me. But then he simply gave up and went home. Isn’t that mean?’

“The most exciting hiding place has lost its excitement because the other stops playing. The master caresses the boy’s face. He himself now has tears in his eyes. And he says, ‘Yes, this is not nice. But look, it is the same with God. He is in hiding, and we do not seek him.

“Just imagine! God is hiding and we people do not even look for him.’ In this little story, a Christian is able to find the key to the ancient mystery of Christmas. God is in hiding. He waits for his creation to set out toward him, he waits for a new and willing Yes to come about, for love to arise as a new reality out of his creation. He waits for man.”

In one of his weekly audiences (May 17, 2006), Pope Benedict reminded us that, “The school of faith is not a triumphal march, but a journey marked daily by suffering and love, trials and faithfulness.”

The pope was reflecting on the faith of Peter. “Peter, who promised absolute fidelity, knew the bitterness and humiliation of denial: the arrogant man learns the costly lesson of humility. Peter, too, must learn that he is weak and in need of forgiveness.”

Peter had wanted a “divine man” who would fulfill the expectations of the people by imposing his power on them all.

The pope reminds us: “We would also like the Lord to impose his power and transform the world instantly. Jesus presented himself as a ‘human God,’ the servant of God, who turned the crowd’s expectations upside down by taking a path of humility and suffering.”

And it all began with the birth of a baby. The grace of Advent gives us the opportunity to embrace this lesson of the school of faith.

We also have the opportunity to acknowledge the weakness of our faith and to seek forgiveness in the gift of God’s mercy, sacramental reconciliation.

God waits for us. †

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