John Cardinal O’Conner, former Archbishop of New York once told this story:
I want to tell you something that happened to me the other day. I went to confession to a wonderful elderly priest, even older than I am. this is what he said to me—I wrote it down when I got home:
“Now is a moment of grace. Something big is about to happen; something very big. And it’s going to happen to you. We are about to begin Advent. God has become incarnate in the human condition, for you, personally for you. God has become a little baby right in the middle of the sins you have just told me about. You have reason for new and wonderful hope.”
I’ll tell you, I left that confessional feeling highly excited over the coming of Advent—a very personal excitement over the fact that Christ came to us two thousand years ago as one of us, and that he is still coming each day, in each Mass, and in a thousand different ways. And that he would have come if I were the only person in the world.
God has become a little baby right in the middle of our sins. What a powerful thought! The very thing that we usually want to run away from, is the very place where the Lord wants to make contact with us. (I can see why Cardinal O’Conner wanted to write down what he heard so he would not forget it.) And it’s something that we should not forget either! It makes the Advent Season personal!
So, when we speak about Christ’s coming at Advent we remember two things: first, that Christ did come at a certain point in history, but we also remember that Christ will come again. When he does, will we be ready for Him? Or will we be caught off guard?
What we hear in Luke’s Gospel is important: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” I think the drunkenness and carousing bit are obvious, but what about the last part—the anxieties of life? I think we are all dealing with that—I hear it all the time, how people are stressed out, upset with what’s going on in our country and our world, along with all the family and personal issues that we all have to deal with—our struggle with sin included. We can become depressed and discouraged and find ourselves starting to think negative thoughts which may even lead to despair.
That’s why the message from that elderly priest is so important for us. God becomes incarnate for you and for me. Now is a moment of grace. Right in the middle of our sins and our worries and our depression, there’s Jesus saying look at me and NOT all all that nonsense. Trust in me and stop believing the lies that you are hearing, from others and the lies that you tell yourself. Let me heal you this Advent Season, and know the real reason why I did what I did—why I became like you in everything except sin. Something big is about to happen. Be ready for it.