Advent, 3rd Sunday. John the Baptist might be getting discouraged. Where is the Lord and the coming judgement that John prophesied? In this past week I have held the hand of a maimed woman, a woman with ALS, a dying person, a sinner in Reconciliation, and a family at a funeral while their relative went into cardiac arrest. Where was the Lord?

This weekend is Pink Candle Sunday, but it could also be called "Do-not-be-Discouraged Sunday." The Lord who is coming is already here. "The judge is standing at the gate." Advent is about opening our eyes to see the presence of the Lord who is already here.

Pope Francis said: “Our life is a path which we must follow to arrive at the encounter with Jesus. The most important thing that can happen to a person is to encounter Jesus, who loves us, who has saved us, who gave his life for us”, the Pope said, addressing the newly confirmed children. “We might wonder: but when will I meet Jesus? Only at the end? No! … All our lives are an encounter with Jesus, when we pray, when we go to Mass and when we do good works; when we visit the sick and when we help the poor; when we think of others, when we are not selfish, when we are kind … in these things we always find Jesus. And this is exactly what the path of life is: advancing towards Jesus”.

“'But Father', you might ask me”, he continued, speaking off the cuff, “'You know that this path is a hard one for me, because I am a great sinner, I have committed many sins... How can I encounter Jesus?'. But you know that the people Jesus sought the most were the greatest sinners; and people reproached Him for this, and those who considered themselves righteous said that He could not be a true prophet – look at the company He keeps! He stayed with sinners. And He said, I have come for those who are in need of health, who need to be healed, and Jesus cured our sins. And on this path … we are all sinners – even when we make mistakes, Jesus comes to us and forgives us. And this forgiveness that we receive in Confession is an encounter with Jesus. We always encounter Jesus. And we go through life like this, as the prophet said, towards the mountain, until the day in which the definitive encounter will take place. … This is Christian life: walking along, advancing united, as brothers, wishing good upon each other. … Be courageous, do not be afraid!"

Life is a journey together towards God, but a journey where God accompanies us. And so I look back on my week: the woman in the nursing home had a wonderful smile, the devoted husband, the sister-in-law at the bedside, the forgiveness of sins, the answer to prayers... Jesus was there! Being Christian is about coming to see the presence of Christ all over the place. This week I want to encourage you to take up the practice of saying Grace before Meals. Because we need to start recognizing signs of the presence of God. We need to keep our eyes open for the Master, because the best is yet to come. Habits of daily prayer help us to say: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say: Rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.

(15 Dec 2013)

Want to do deeper?

Grace before Meals

Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Read Pope Francis A Lifelong Encounter with Jesus

Sing along: