Living the Bridging Love of Christ: a Reflection on the Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, 2022

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Living the Bridging Love of Christ: a Reflection on the Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, 2022

by M Hakes, Oblate of St. Benedict

  • Isaiah 2:1-5
  • Romans 13:11-14
  • Matthew 24:37-44

Tonight, we mark the beginning of Advent; a time when we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas by striving to notice the many ways God makes Themself known in our lives. Advent is also an opportunity for us to consider how we are living out the Way of Jesus.

We do this because Christmas is all about incarnation, when God breaks into our humanity. We recall that the very life breath of God enters into a tabernacle of flesh, blood, and bone. Through this divine act of immense love, as Jesus takes on our cloak of humanness, we are told that we are enough. Through the mysteries of the Incarnation and Jesus’s death and resurrection, we are reminded of our wholeness. Through the great mysteries of our faith, God claims us as Their own, rebirthing us as Children of Light.

As we prepare to welcome the Christ Child, it is essential that we take time to reconsider what it means to walk in the Way of Jesus. As the prophet Isaiah writes in our first reading, “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths…O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

God did not enter into our humanity in the person of Jesus only to suffer and die for our sins, but to destroy death and to show us a more human way to live.

The way of Jesus is a way of relationship and loving action; one that calls us to notice the divine spark hidden in all of creation. Our task then becomes uncovering this speck of divine light hidden in all moments and all people, and working to undo the injustices that keep that light hidden. In a sense, we are called to help heal the world.

Dorothy Day, a co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, put it like this: “What we would like to do is change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute – the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words – we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.”

In a global community, a country, a Christianity that often feels split, we are called to live the bridging love of Christ. We are compelled to face the challenges of today’s world, contribute toward reconciliation between all people, and in turn participate in the reconciliation of God and creation.

The Way of Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. We are called to literally do these things as individuals. It’s not enough for us to make a donation or attend another meeting. Jesus is telling us to go and do these things.

But I think Jesus is calling us to go deeper. Jesus isn’t calling us simply to do the work, but to also be in relationship.

“Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18). 

Don’t ask yourself when the last time was you served a meal at the Damiano Center. Instead, when was the last time you ate a meal at Damiano and got to know the people sitting with you at the table? Don’t ask when you last helped with a clothing drive, but instead when did you last listen to the story of a man experiencing homelessness warming himself at the transit center?

The Way of Jesus urges us to see the injustices present in our community. To recognize the oppressive structures that cause people to go hungry, experience homelessness, and endure prejudicial treatment and then to begin dismantling them.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah: “I want you to share your bread with the hungry, open your homes to the homeless poor, remove the yoke of injustice, let the oppressed go free.” (From Isaiah 58: 6-7)

The Way of Jesus is not meant to be a cozy, pat-yourself-on-the-back way of life, but an uncomfortable call to action. As Children of Light, we are given the essential task to allow God’s love to overwhelm us and reveal our blessedness, and then let it overflow into the world, uncovering the hidden shatters of divine light around us. In this way we become co-creators with God in the work of resurrection and re-creation.

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42). When the Lord comes, may we be found doing the work we are called to do.

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“Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others.”
–Henri Nouwen