We don’t use qualifiers about the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, or Oklahoma City. Anytime you utter the words The Bombing around these parts, everyone in hearing distance will know what and when you mean.
We also don’t talk about it much. This monstrous event knocked us flat as a community. It re-focused our fight away from the everyday conflicts that engaged us before it happened. Anger and rage were an indulgence we couldn’t afford. We had people to save and lives to rebuild and only so much emotional gas to do it with.
The bombing was mass murder. What happened in Denver and Wisconsin and Sandy Hook and so many other places were also mass murder. What we have narrowly avoided in other places were other mass murders in the making.
Mass murder is not entertainment.
These tragedies are on every news show, even though there’s often no news to report. They are analyzing and pontificating, all without data, like so many useless hamsters in their respective cages. The object of almost all this attention is the individual or individuals who commit these crimes.
Mass murder, whether it is committed by an individual, a mob or a government, stuns us into incomprehension. We can’t fathom why anyone would think that it is a good idea to scheme, plan — use all their money, resources and ability — to work toward and then actually do this ultimately senseless thing.
We ask why. The only answer we get is a cacophony of psycho-babble from the book authors, psychologists and profilers who go in front of the camera and serve up heaping platefuls of meaningless word-salad pontification. There is no usable answer. The question echoes. Why?
Mass murder is inexplicable to those of us who look for reasons in the healthy motivators of love, fun, achievement and reward. This is at least partly because, in addition to all its other negatives, mass murder is just plain stupid. I think this stupidity is part of our fascination. We can’t figure it out.
Hannah Arendt gave us the phrase “the banality of evil” when she described the execution of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann mass-murderered millions. His crimes challenge our notions of civilization and human goodness.
Arendt witnessed Eichmann’s execution. She reported that Eichmann refused the ministrations of a protestant minister, announcing that he didn’t believe in God; then he made a few inane remarks and proclaimed long life to Germany, Austria and Argentina. That was it. This man who murdered on an industrial scale died with a hiccup of banality.
Arendt had experienced Hitler’s anti-Semitism. She was interrogated by the SS, then fled the Nazi death machine from Germany to France and finally America. I would guess that Eichmann was the monster in her closet, the darkness in her nightmares. And yet, when she witnessed his execution, she didn’t see the fireworks of an evil god. She saw the big zero of nothing much. Eichmann’s evil deeds haunt the world, but he himself wasn’t even an interesting person. In her words, ” … this long course in human wickedness had taught us the lesson of the fearsome word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”
I think she spoke a great truth in this sentence, one we overlook at our peril. Evil is not grand. It is not glorious. It is banal. Stupid. Senseless. Useless. And ultimately, boring.
Spinning verbal webs about the banal little nothings who commit these crimes gives them a substance and a dignity that they do not possess on their own. It creates the unfortunate illusion that these killers are interesting, and it feeds the cravings for significance of future killers in the audience.
Ted Bundy, another mass murderer who achieved celebrity status, said that when he killed he was god. What rot. It doesn’t take any special skill or god-like power to kill. A child can do it. Giving life, living life, caring and nurturing, providing and serving are what bring us close to God, the real God, the One Who made everything, everywhere.
A young mother, sitting up all night with the shower running while she consoles a croupy baby, is closer to God than most saints.
These twisted ciphers of people who commit mass murder are not gods, evil or otherwise. Their dark banality defies the comprehension of people who live and love in the sunlight of life. The media obliges our hunger for an answer to the omnipresent Why? of these things. They give us word-salad ramblings and psycho-babble speculation around the clock. But they don’t tell us what we want to know. They don’t and they can’t explain Why?
In the end, the one thing we know about these mass-murderers is what we knew at the beginning; that they are too dangerous to be allowed to roam free in our world.
We glamorize these people with our obsessive questioning. We feed future mass-murderers and their bizarre quest for significance with the unspoken but very real promise that they, too, can become stars of the obsessive media spotlight.
If the bombing taught me anything it is that these crimes against humanity are not entertainment, that these obsessions we form about those who commit them are our own contribution to the dark side.
Good people are hurt in these atrocities. We should focus our energies on finding ways to help them re-order their lives in this new reality of what has happened to them. We should pray and pray some more. We should pray especially for an end to the interest in these murderers. Contrary to the pretense of those who fixate on them, they have nothing to teach us.
If we want to learn, we would do much better to study those who gave their lives so that others might live, like the school principal who charged a gunman to save her students. We could learn from the security guard who saved a building full of people in Washington, from the cops who went into that theater in Aurora, and the teachers who blocked the doors. The people who bring flowers and lay them on the sidewalk, the generous souls who write checks to help the injured and bury the dead: These people have something to teach, something worth learning.
There is goodness all around us. If we are sincere about doing something to end these repetitive mass murders, let’s stop looking to the murderers for our solutions and focus on the people who give life, not take it.
Evil is banal. It is boring. It is stupid. And it hurts people.
We should not cooperate with evil by making it, and the deaths of innocents, into our entertainment.
The apparitions began in 1981 in a village named Kibeho and continued through 1989. Our Mother warned the people of Rwanda of the coming genocide and urged them to turn away from evil with repentance, prayer and fasting. She specifically urged them pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
This is a special prayer formulated around the seven major sorrows of Our Lady’s life. Our salvation is based at least in part in her willingness to suffer alongside her son. She gave Him to us in a very real way at the Wedding of Cana where she asked Him perform His first miracle. This action set Him on His ministry and the path that both He and His mother knew would lead to the cross.
“My hour is not yet come.” Jesus told her when she asked Him to help with the wine. “My hour” meaning the road to the cross. It was a wedding. He was probably happy. Having a great time. And His mother was asking him to leave all the joys of normal life and begin the long painful ministry that would lead to His torture and death. Then, as at Gethsemane, He did the human thing. He tried to postpone. “My hour has not yet come.”
But His mother ignored Him. “Do as He tells you.” she told the wine stewards. And Our Lord obeyed her. He did what His mother asked.
Think, for a moment, what courage it took for this mother to give her son to the ages. Think of the young Mary, taking her baby to the Temple for the first time. Her tiny baby boy. Imagine how proud and thrilled she must have been. Then Simeon tells her that “this child” will be the cause of much wrath and that He will be pierced by a sword that will pierce her soul, as well.
How hard that must have been, to have her joy dashed with this prophecy. But she needed to know. God answered Simeon’s prayer by allowing Him to see the Messiah before he died, and at the same time, used him to prophesy this terrible future to Mary.
She knew what she was doing when she asked Jesus to perform that first miracle at Canna. She also knew exactly what He meant when He said, “What does this have to do with us? My hour has not come.” She was woman, all women, the new Eve, undoing the harm of the old Eve by not failing this terrible test. “Do as He tells you,” was a prophetic instruction to the stewards and an instruction to us as well as them. “Do as He tells you,” she told the stewards, and her words echo down the centuries to us today. “Do as He tells you,” she says to us.
It was also a commissioning. She didn’t argue with Jesus. She just turned to the stewards and told them to do as Jesus told them. Our Lord responded by doing what His mother wanted. He began his ministry at that moment. She gave Him to us by this act, set Him on the path of ministry that led to our salvation.
This is the how the Seven Sorrows of Mary are the story of our salvation, bought with blood, suffering and sacrifice. Jesus turned His back on the human temptations to use His power for worldly glories during his forty days in the desert. His mother sent Him forward into His ministry at the Wedding at Cana. And He, by His actions there, sanctified marriage and made it a sacrament of love.
These Seven Sorrows are what Our Lady instructed the people of Rwanda to pray when she appeared to them at Kibeho from 1981 to 1989. She warned them, specifically, of the carnage and bloodshed to come if they didn’t pray, fast and repent.
God was there, even in this harbinger of hell that was the Rwandan genocide. He sent His mother to warn the people of Rwanda and to give them a way out.
I believe the message of Our Lady of Kibeho is a good one for Americans today. We stand in the shadow of six months of senseless slaughter by sad individuals acting in service to the devil. We will talk later about mental health services and legal reforms. But anyone who thinks the devil hasn’t had his hand in this is simply not seeing the obvious.
I am going to pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary for the families who’ve lost children to these murders this past six months, beginning with the parents and families in Connecticut. I am also going to pray for America.
We all need to repent our support of violence, whether it’s in video games, movies or music. We need to repent our hate-filled invective against other people who simply disagree with us. We need to repent the violence and the murder in our hearts when we allow the culture wars to push us to hate. We need to repent the broken marriages and shattered families, the tantrums and curses and cruelties we commit and tolerate.
Without conversion, America will commit suicide. It is in the process of doing that now. We are Christians. We have the only solution, the only salvation there is. We need to live it daily and hourly. Only after we cleanse ourselves can we hope to share this great Hope with others.
You can find directions for praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary here, if you would like to join me.
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. I was deeply saddened by Friday’s senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut. I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer. May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain. During this Advent Season, let us dedicate ourselves more fervently to prayer and to acts of peace. Upon those affected by this tragedy, and upon each of you, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!
Peter Wiebe and his family lost their precious son and brother, Jesse, to cancer. Peter shares his journey of grief and faith in a WordPress blog he calls Threshold of Heaven.
I met Peter and his blog when I started Public Catholic a few months ago. He’s been a blessing to me and at the same time a challenge. The challenge lies is accepting the pain he shares while knowing that there is nothing I can say or do to ease his burden.
Peter Wiebe wrote a wonderful letter to Jesus Tuesday. I’d like to share it with all of you, particularly with those who have lost a child. They are one with Peter in this pain that passes understanding. It’s a private club no one wants to join. Only Christ on the cross can sanctify this loss, this sorrow.
Thank you Peter for sharing your walk with the rest of us.
I am going to reprint the entire letter, with Peter Wiebe’s permission. You can read it in the original, as well as learn about Jesse Wiebe’s life here.
It’s just over two years now since our lives turned upside down. It’s hard to believe we are facing our second Christmas without Jesse. I don’t believe that you caused Jesse’s cancer, but you certainly could have prevented it from happening or cured it after the fact.
I believe the Bible when it tells me that all authority has been given to you both in Heaven and on the Earth. I don’t think I could believe in you if you were either powerless to prevent/cure Jesse’s cancer or just indifferent to his suffering. You did, after all, weep at the tomb of your friend Lazarus even when you knew that you would raise him from the dead. I choose to believe that you care despite the fact that you did not act the way I had hoped.
I don’t understand why you didn’t answer our prayers for Jesse’s healing. Neither do I understand why on so many nights when we pleaded with you to ease Jesse’s suffering, his suffering actually got worse. It felt like you ignored our prayers. Anna and I really felt along with David when he said, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”
While I suppose I could have hardened my heart toward you and filled up with bitterness and resentment, I could not find it within myself to do so. Early on during Jesse’s cancer I looked around the children’s ward and saw so many others with cancer; it never seemed right to me to ask the question “Why us?” rather I was left with the impression “Why not us?” It was a profound realization for me.
While my faith in you has been stretched exceedingly, it has not broken. I echo the words of one of your disciples when You asked him if he wanted to go, “You have the words of eternal life, where else could I go?”
With Jesse’s death, my whole vision of the Godly family I would build collapsed. The business, that was a part of that vision, failed the year after Jesse’s death. We also lost our home church, where we once were esteemed and had ministered for nearly a decade. And yet, despite our trials, I still have hope in you. You are my Saviour, and I am glad. I cling to the promise in your Word that says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”
I have not only lost, but also gained since Jesse’s death. I have gained a deeper understanding of suffering in the lives of believers. I have also gained a better understanding of what it means to have an eternal perspective. When I remember the terrible heaving of Jesse’s chest as he struggled for every breath, I imagine what it was like for you as you struggled to breathe on the cross. Then I know you understand. I am grateful, too, that Jesse will never have to stand and weep at the grave of someone he loves. He has truly been spared much pain and suffering here on Earth.
Since Jesse is now in Heaven with You, I often wonder what he is up too. Down here, there are plenty of conflicting views about Heaven and our resurrection. I wish you would have clarified that better in your Word. But the glimpses that you do give us into Heaven and the afterlife give us great hope of a joy filled reunion with Jesse.
In closing, Lord Jesus, please continue to have mercy on us as we walk the path before us. Bless us to know you more and more as the day of our own death approaches. Help us to be a blessing and a comfort to those you would send across our path. Help us to train our remaining three boys in your grace for as long as they remain in our care.
Please bless Jesse for us and tell him how much we all love and miss him.
Even so, Lord Jesus, come.
Peter Wiebe 2012
The season of Advent requires us to examine our consciences and then to take the sins we find there to the confessional. This process of honest self-appraisal and equally honest confession results in an interior cleansing that I don’t think can happen in any other way.
I always mentally draw a line under my past misdeeds after confession and just simply forget them. They are done. Forgiven. Confession peels off the clingy guilts and scrubs away the stubborn stains of what I’ve done and turns me toward a better future.
I’ve also found that if I go to confession often and confess, as I usually do, the same sins over and over, I begin to change. Confession confers grace, including the grace of self-awareness. The desire to keep on committing these sins weakens with repeated confession and I gradually, without even noticing it, do them less and less.
It’s not an act of the will. It’s not even a conscious thing. It just happens.
I’m not a great theologian, so I can’t give you a treatise on why confession works, or even all its merits. I can only tell you that it does work. It is difficult to confess your sins. It can even be painful. But even if the priest in question is not a good confessor for you (and not all of them are good for everyone; we are, after all, individuals) the cleansing, the liberation and the grace of conversion still happen.
Confession, like all the sacraments, does not depend on the personality or even the sanctity of the individual priest. The graces of confession come from God and they are more a function of your honesty and willingness to accept what God offers you than anything else.
The Church guards the sacraments and preserves them from one generation, one historical challenge, to the next. It then makes them freely available to us. These sacraments, each of them, are an opportunity to meet God in this life in a dependable, simple, non-intellectual way. Everyone, from the youngest child to the most erudite intellectual, experiences the same taste of heaven in the sacraments.
The sacraments do not depend on our working ourselves up into an emotional state. They do not require us to understand deep theology. They don’t even require us to be good or holy. All we need to do is be honest about ourselves before God and willing to receive the gift He freely offers us through His Church.
Confession follows self-examination. It is the second step in the three-step dance of conversion. First, we look at ourselves honestly. Then, we ask forgiveness for our sins.
Through the gift of confession, we have the privilege of saying our sins out loud in front of another person. We are given the gift of hearing that we are absolved. And, finally, we can know without doubt that these things we have done are behind us. They are finished, over and through.
We can draw a line under our sins after confession and forget them, safe in the knowledge that God has forgiven us and these sad little sins are no more.
Nigerian Christians are withstanding violent persecution at the hands of Islamic terrorists called Boko Haram. Their witness for Christ humbles me today, as if has for quite a long time. I will never forget the voice of a Nigerian Anglican Bishop’s wife as she told me “Those who persist in following Christ until the end will have eternal life.”
Eternal life in Christ was real to her. It sustained her and gave her not only a peace which passes understanding, but courage which passes understanding, as well.
When people are faced with the horror of repeated terrorist attacks as Christians in Nigeria are, and they respond with prayer and fasting as Christians in Nigeria do, I know that I am witnessing the courage that comes only from the grace of a loving God.
One of the many sins that we need to repent of in this Advent season is our indifference in the face of such magnificent courage and faith in Our Savior by our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, especially in Nigeria.
The excerpted CNA article below describes one such act of courage among the many in Nigeria today.
Lagos, Nigeria, Nov 13, 2012 / 12:17 am (CNA).- After his parish in southern Nigeria was desecrated on Nov. 4, Monsignor Obiora F. Ike called on his parishioners to observe a week of prayer and penance.
“Msgr. Ike has called for seven days of prayer, fasting, penance and reparation for the Christian faithfuls and for the conversion of these perpetrators,” according to a statement on his website.
Around 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 4, attackers entered St. Leo the Great parish in Enugu, vandalizing the building and destroying infrastructure and sacred items.
Everything in the church was destroyed: the altar, sacred vessels, musical equipment, seats, the pulpit, statues, religious images, and the entire microphone system.
The destruction included “the Blessed Sacrament that was desecrated,” according to Msgr. Ike’s statement.
By 4:00 a.m. security agents arrived at the parish and assessed the damage. According to Msgr. Ike, the damage done totals around $63,500.
Sunday Mass at the parish was held outside “under the heavy sunshine.” Msgr. Ike’s sermon that day encouraged the congregation to “remain steadfast in their faith despite all the persecution, religious intolerance and fanaticism.” He also urged them to remain dedicated in prayer and forgive the perpetrators.(Read more here.)
I’ve been a feminist for a long time.
The driving force to my feminism is violence against women in all its forms.
I was one of the six original founders of the YWCA Rape Crisis Center here in Oklahoma back in the early 1970s. Violence against women in its many forms led me into a hot-headed pro choice advocacy and ultimately to the position of NARAL Director for Oklahoma.
I’ve passed law after law trying to stop violence against women. I passed the original protective order here in Oklahoma, back in the day when the whole idea was considered radical. I even had opponents of the bill go on television and denounce me as being a Communist for passing it, something which amused me no end.
Year after year, decade after decade, I have worked to end violence against women. I’ve done everything I can. And you know what? It’s worse than ever. Women are sexualized and degraded for comic relief on mainstream television. They are pornified and reduced to objects on other channels. Movie after movie presents us with titillating scenes of women being beaten, raped, sodomized and murdered — all for our entertainment.
Type the word “rape” into your google search engine, and you’ll get page after page of hits on pornographic sites showing women being raped, tortured and murdered for fun.
The major thing that drove me away from any church and straight into my anti-God period was the indifference I saw to violence against women in the churches. I’ve seen horrific things in this regard and they drove me away from both church and God.
I don’t know of course, but I think that perhaps the reason God gave me such a knock-you-flat conversion experience is that I needed it to be able to see Him for Who He was. He poured such love on me, and by doing so, shared His real self with me in a way that wiped away all confusion as to His nature.
Even after all that, I was still so painfully hurt by all that had gone before that I actually prayed and asked God if He hated women. This prayer wasn’t a challenge. It wasn’t an attempt to argue with the Lord. It was an honest question, based on my own life experience.
God doesn’t often answer me directly, but He answered me then. It was one of those full understanding answers where He sort of downloaded a total vision of what women are to Him and how He truly feels about the abuse of women that is misogyny.
That answer was one of the most generous things He’s ever done for me. It was also life-altering. It has informed my walk with Christ and my understanding of what it means to be a Christian feminist, ever since.
Six years ago, when I was in Fatima, Portugal, God gave me another of those downloads. This time, it wasn’t an understanding. It was a commission of sorts, a commission I’ve hemmed and hawed about, that I’ve delayed acting on, ever since.
I was sitting in the cathedral there at Fatima. I wasn’t praying, exactly. I wasn’t not praying, either. I was just drifting in that Presence that saturates the whole grounds. I do that sometimes. It’s kind of like the Holy Spirit is a river, and I’m floating in it, just letting the current take me.
As I was floating in the soft waters of the Spirit, just drifting along, I understood that my life was going to change and I would be doing something different.
I won’t go into the whole of it now because I don’t think it’s time. But I will say that part of it involved writing three books; three books, that for one thing, share with the world that understanding of what women mean to God that He gave me so long ago. There’s more, but that’s enough for me to talk about now.
I’ve been so intimidated by the whole thing that I’ve delayed and put it off for six years.
There have been several times during those six years when the Lord has re-visited me about it. Each time He told me to stop waiting and begin. I’ve joked to friends that I don’t want to die and go stand before the Lord and have Him ask me “What part of ‘Write a book’ don’t you understand?”
But the truth is, I don’t want to die and stand before the Lord and have Him ask me “What part of ‘write a book’ don’t you understand?”
I’m not a kid anymore, and the Lord has given me work that I need to do before I die. So, I guess I’d better do it.
Tomorrow, I have surgery on my foot again.
How do those things connect, except by the calendar?
Well, post surgery is a great time for prayer. Thanks to the pain meds, it’s also a great time for falling asleep in the middle of prayer. But I have a number of precious little sins I need to give up. One of them is procrastination about the work that God has charged me with. I’ve been like Moses without Moses’ sanctity, complaining that I don’t have the ability to speak and besides nobody will listen to me and shouldn’t He ask somebody better????
All that over the writing part of what He told me to do. I won’t even go into my total inability to do the rest of it.
I need to repent of doubting Him. I need to repent of not doing what He told me to do. I need to stop listening to the doubting devil and start doing what I’m told.
The reason I’m telling you about this is to ask for your prayers. I need this Advent as a sweeping out, clearing away and facing forward time. I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life when I’ve needed a penitential season as much as I need this one.
As I said, I’m asking for your prayers. As Leah Lebresco would say, Ora pro me
Who talks about Jesus more than the Pope?
Who worries constantly about the fact that somebody, somewhere, might be enjoying Christmas?
Who misquotes the Bible and misapplies those quotes more than Archie Bunker?
In their annual campaign to ruin Christmas for the rest of us, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has somehow or other persuaded the government of Wisconsin to allow them to use the Wisconsin state capitol to promote their bizarro view of the world. The post, Tis the Season: Atheists stage “alternative” Nativity scene, by Deacon Greg Kandra who blogs here at Patheos at The Deacon’s Bench describes one of the many spitballs these folks throw in this annual Grinchfest. The article reads in part:
Atheists, clearly agitated that Christians purportedly “stole” various holiday traditions from pagans, have come up with a solution: A potentially-offensive “natural nativity scene” that removes baby Jesus and replaces traditional Bible characters with some eyebrow-raising alternatives. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is behind the spectacle , which emerged this week as part of a diorama inside the Wisconsin state capitol.
The angel that typically graces the nativity is replaced with an astronaut. And the wise-men – prominent figures in the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth — are replaced with evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, scientist Albert Einstein, anarchist Emma Goldman and author Mark Twain. The Statue of Liberty is also placed in the alternative nativity to purportedly symbolize freedom.
Rather than including Mary, whom the FFRF dismisses as “a mythical fertility figure,” the display includes Venus, the Roman goddess of love. And forget about Joseph — this depiction has Thomas Jefferson, a figure atheist groups enjoy touting for his purported church versus state views. According to the FFRF, Jefferson “would have disavowed Christian devotional scenes on state property.” (Read more here.)
My first thought on reading this is one I often have when I encounter the antics of these people: They don’t sound like adults.
My second thought is another one that I often have when dealing with them: They are obsessed with what they claim they don’t believe. I don’t know of any other group as obsessive, compulsive, negative and, finally, boring as evangelical atheists. Did I forget rude? Forgive me. I don’t know any other group of people as rude as evangelical atheists.
I don’t believe any saint in history thought about Christ and his Church as much as these people do. Based on their public utterances, they must think about Him 24/7. I would guess that when they aren’t out posting repetitive insults on Christian blogs and dreaming up equally insulting slogans to put on buses and in dioramas at Christmas, they must be perusing the Scriptures, looking for verses to take out of context and use for spears to hurl in their various attacks.
I was never a full and absolute atheist, but I did spend 17 years of my young life in an all-out anti-religion mode. I was probably more anti-God in my way than these people are. The difference is I was good at it. I didn’t spend my days obsessing over God. I didn’t read the Scriptures. I didn’t insult anybody. I just didn’t care. I left Christians alone in much the same way that I don’t now go busting into Free Thinkers’ meetings to razz at them. They’ve got a right to think what they want. And I don’t care.
You see, that’s what unbelief, or in my case, rejection, actually looks like. You don’t obsess over what you don’t believe. These people are odd. And they’re really negative and nasty in the things they say. I’ve said this before, but what they remind me of are adolescents who are searching frantically for significance. I think the reason they spend so much time driving the rest of us bonkers is because it makes them feel special and important.
All I know for sure is that Christmas 2012 is just around the corner, which makes it time for the cable networks to trot out their annual Christmas specials complete with “experts” to dismember the Nativity Story. It’s also time for the various atheist groups to file lawsuits in an attempt to suppress and oppress any ideas but theirs. Along with that they’ll treat us to ridiculous “Christmas” displays like the one in Wisconsin.
As for me, I’m just beginning Advent, which, unlike this nonsense, is a serious spiritual season. I have much to repent of, much to pray about and much to learn during this time. I don’t think I’m going to let the annual atheist attempt to ruin Christmas for everybody else distract me.
I’ve read in books and seen on television a number of first person stories from people who were faced with imminent death. Many of them relate how, when the gun is pointed at their heads or the bear was chomping at their skulls, they asked God to forgive their sins and receive their souls. Then, almost invariably, they say they thought about their families.
Not once in any of these tales of survival in the face of death have I heard anyone say that they were worried about missing a meeting at their office or whether or not they would get their next promotion. Preparing to meet the Lord strips away all the little things that take up our days and leaves us with the stark reality of who we are in light of His justice and who we love in this world. When we are face to face with eternity, eternal things — love and the state of our souls in relation to God — are what matters.
One striking element of these narratives is that these people are, even in the face of their great peril, hopeful. They don’t just bemoan the ugliness of their sins as they compare to God’s justice, they ask, with certainty of His love, for forgiveness. They ask, with expectation that it will happen, for Him to receive their souls. They even ask Him to take care of the people they are going to leave behind.
The reason they have this confidence in God’s love, this hope of His forgiveness and that He will take them home when they die is that God become human in the form of a helpless little baby. That is what we are awaiting in Advent: The hope and the promise of the only One who can save us, the beginning of the end of death.
Advent is a door opening on our eternal salvation. It is the pathway that leads us to eternal life.
Someone’s coming. And we need to get ready.
Like everyone who knows that someone’s coming to their house, we need to sweep up the dust, straighten the pillows and stock the fridge with goodies. Only in this case, the house He is coming to is the real and eternal us: Our souls. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, we need confession.
All this is somewhat symbolic, of course. Jesus is already born. He has already suffered, died, been buried and rose again. The promise of Advent is reality for us already. But at the same time, this promise is also coming and on its way. We are battered, buffeted, chip, stained and pitted by the battles of our daily lives. We are embittered by our losses, defeated by our failures and enthralled with our victories.
We are, in short, too much of this world to be ready to receive our King. We need to pause and take stock of ourselves and we need to do it now. To paraphrase a soft drink commercial, we need that pause of humility and honest self-examination that refreshes. We must, if we are to be any use to Him at all, acknowledge our sins, look honestly at our failings and turn to Him for forgiveness and conversion of heart.
We are His instruments in this world. But before an instrument can be used, it must be cleaned, tuned and brought into good working order. After this election season and its many evils, after the struggles of our lives these past few months, we need this cleaning and tuning up.
We must prepare our eternal houses, our souls, to receive our Lord once again. That is what Advent is all about. If you would be His servant in this world, it is imperative that you not miss it.