In the opening prayer of today’s Holy Mass we prayed that “no earthly undertaking might hinder those who have set out in haste to meet Jesus.”
Two things are brought to our attention about our Advent journey: the earthly things that can distract us and absorb our energies, even sinfully so; and the eagerness with which we should proceed. Our haste should not be the kind of haste that makes waste. Our impetuous nature is all too inclined to face even the most serious things of our lives as if flying by the seat of our pants. No, our haste should be a fervor that is eager to approach the manger this year with hearts more disposed to welcome our Savior into our hearts.
Our hearts should be His manger. And our hearts have much in common with a manger, an animal feedbox. They’re a bit smelly and ill-kept. Jeremiah the prophet once said the heart is deceitful beyond all things (Jer. 17,9). He spoke of the wounded human heart, but Jesus comes to heal it and make it noble and true. “Heal me Lord, and I shall be healed!” (Jer. 17,14).
But we must welcome Him! And this is the work of Advent. John, the new prophet, wants to help us. His prescription: Repent! To repent is to clean out the manger of our heart. Even repentance, though, can be very conditional, which is why John blasts out at the Pharisees. They had made pretense a career. They were a scandal to themselves as well as to the masses. We all have a shadow of the Pharisee within.
To truly repent, and to truly heal, we must want that shadow to be exposed to the Light of Christ. Only thus can we be the poor in spirit, those who readily acknowledge that they are desperately impoverished and in need of a new heart, a true heart, and a new spirit (cf. Ps. 51). Let us be such souls! And we will be so very blest.
Fr. Gregory Dick is a Norbertine at St. Michael’s Abbey. Find out more about the Norbertines at https://stmichaelsabbey.com/