As we enter the third week of Advent, the prayer invites us to rejoice, a strange request as Advent is a time of reflection, remembering, and getting ready. We reflect on our life to discover what is present or missing on our spiritual journey. We remember God’s coming in the past and look forward to God’s return at the end of time.
In Sunday’s gospel we met John the Baptist, a cousin of Jesus. John is portrayed as a man dressed in a camel’s skin held at the waist by a belt. His beard is long and straggly. In many icons, he is shown holding his head since Herod had him beheaded. John was a single-minded individual who was not afraid to tell people to straighten out their lives and live in a way pleasing to God. Because of this, he lost his head. In today’s gospel, he makes his first public appearance telling the people to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
Now, if someone said that to a crowd of people today, one of the questions asked would be, “What must we do?” John tells them to change their life, repent, take care of those in need, and be honest in their dealings with others. This advice is as valid today as it was in John’s day. The question needs a revision from “What must we do” to Whom must we be?”
Meister Eckhart, a thirteenth-century Dominican, speaks about the birth to God in the soul. He means this in a spiritual sense, but he is emphatic about the necessity of birth of God in the soul. Such a birth makes God present in the world in a special way, for the birth is different for each individual. This birth is the fruit of seeking God in and before all things. Money, power, adulation, and anything else we can become addicted to are obstacles that divert us from our true calling. As a wise woman once said, “Each of us has a parking space reserved for God and God waits for us to empty it.” The emptying is a lifelong journey. Each Advent gives us the opportunity to empty a little more. The third Sunday of Advent reminds us that the emptying can be an occasion for rejoicing.