"As we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God's commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love."
Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue:49
Last Sunday began the liturgical season of Advent. It's my favorite time of year. Since my seminary days, when I first began to appreciate the spiritual focus of this holy season, with its themes of waiting, staying alert, "for we know not the hour," I have learned to spend Advent focusing my prayer and reflection on what God's birth as Jesus of Nazareth is all about. What's that? Well, love, of course!
St. Benedict is fully aware that God is love (1 Jn 4:8;16). But what is love? Look to Christ for the answer to that one. In Jesus we see the character of God as a personal power that heals and makes whole what is fractured and wounded – giving sight to the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, and giving new life to the dead, not only the physically dead but also the spiritually dead, those blinded by hatred and fear, those deaf to the concerns and needs of others.
Our Christian faith also teaches us that God is the Creator and ultimate source of all things. So then, LOVE is the source of all that exists in this universe, including you and me! And if that’s true, then only by being loving persons can we be what God intends us to be: expressions of the One who gives life and being to all that exists.
It may sound trite, but love is the only power that can heal our broken and sinful society, which is why St. Paul often wrote in his letters about the mission of Jesus Christ to make all things new, including each of us! As new creations in Christ, we become hope for a world torn by violence and distrust.
This line of reflection also opens in me a greater appreciation of my own individuality. Each of us has a unique personality and distinct experiences, some good and life-giving, some bad, hurtful and wounding. But all of it, both good and bad, makes us who we are as a person that God so loves that He wanted to be with us as fully human, as Jesus!
We human beings have a capacity that other creatures don’t enjoy. We can intensify the quality of our lives by the way we choose to respond to life. We can reach out to others in love, pursue what’s good for a neighbor, forgive and seek reconciliation instead of retribution, encourage instead of criticize, and share life with others through generosity and creativity. Or not; the choice is ours to make.
Jesus was open to life and he loved unconditionally. His “way” is summed up in his Great Commandment: Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. On this, said Jesus, everything hangs! The Christian follows Jesus on a path that leads to life, running in the way of God’s commandments with hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love!
This Advent, ask yourself what it would be like to live more intensely by sharing the Love coming into the world – a Love that sin and death cannot overcome? Perhaps it would mean opening your heart up to more freely, more generously, take risks to reach out and establish new threads of connection in the beautiful web of relationships that is your life! Be bold!