The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:
“God communicates himself to man gradually.
He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation
that is to culminate in the person and
mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.” (CCC 53)
Scripture shows us that this process is analogous to a farmer working his field or a lover seeking their beloved. In this analogy, we are the field and God is this farmer. God is the lover, we are his beloved. Whether farmer or lover, there is always a unique element to the movement of God in the life of the specific individual.
“Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.”
-St. Thomas Aquinas, (ST I Q.1 a.9 r.2).
God works with who we are, wherever we are at in our lives. At the beginning of the process, there is a natural longing created by this circumstance; the fallow ground needs to be planted, the beloved becomes restless awaiting the lover. It is here that Christ seeks to meet his beloved, it is here that the Sower plants his seed in our hearts.
This same process is outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our natural state creates in us a longing for God. (CCC 27-30) The Lord, by his grace, thus prepares the soil and inflames the heart through the circumstances of our lives such that St. Augustine’s words tell a universal truth:
"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
-St. Augustine's Confessions (Lib 1,1-2,2.5,5: CSEL 33, 1-5)
Advent is certainly a time when our hearts become inflamed with the anticipation of the coming season: A renewal of faith, looking forward with hope, resting in God's love. But these things don't happen all on their own. To that end, we can use the appropriate acronym, S.O.W. to help prepare ourselves, with a little help from our last three Popes, as fertile soil for what the Lord wishes to give us this season.
" In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves;
ideas come to birth and acquire depth... Deeper reflection helps us
to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected..."
- Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Time spent in silence is an oft neglected part of life in my day. Just as fasting from food and drink allow me to appreciate a feast in a deeper way, my ears, my mind and my heart, needs time to be still so that I can attune my hearing to the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) of God calling out to me. Silence includes time for reflection but is primarily about simply being alone with myself. If I have not spent time reflecting on who I am, I cannot know where I am going, what my purpose is, or why it matters. In silence, I begin to see myself as I really am. If I am honest, I come to know my wants, needs, joys, sorrows, and deepest longings of my own heart. In this time of silence I must come to terms with my own nakedness, woundedness, and weakness but also be clear about the gifts and virtues which are my strengths.
“Silence is really the ‘cloud’ that covers the mystery of our relationship with the Lord, our holiness and our sins. We cannot explain this mystery, but where there is no silence in our lives, the mystery is lost, it goes away. Guard the mystery with silence!”
-Pope Francis Dec. 20, 2013
While the world tells us to be open to everyone and everything, this can cause a woundedness that is difficult to overcome. "Will I let Him love me?"
Once I am aware of who I am, I can interact more honestly with others, more specifically the infant who is to come. If I am broken, if I am wounded, am I open to the one who can heal what is broken, to the one who wishes to enter the wound? When I realize this, I may “cry out” (Psalm 18:6) for one who will rescue them from their poverty. It is precisely in this moment where the seed of faith God has placed within me sprouts. It will begin to grow but I have to be willing to leave the door open and let His light shine on it. If I am not open to this, that new plant can wither and I may become open to almost anything or anyone who can help to stem the pain. I may seek to heal my own wounds, through my own power.
Openness is difficult for man and woman from the moment of the very first sin. Adam and Eve, immediately “saw that they were naked” and sought to cover themselves (Gen 3:7). One of the devastating effects of original sin is a fear of revealing myself to the other, predominately manifest in a lack of trust in God’s goodness. Thus, “they hid themselves” (Gen 3:8) even from God, and I continue to do the same.
In this moment there is a special grace offered to me in the manger. This moment is the culmination of all revelation.
“How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking Him, but rather allowing Him to find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?”
-Pope Francis (Christmas Eve Homily 2014)
There are two kinds of waiting active and passive. Advent is hardly the time to be passive as there is much to do in preparation for the season. But are we active waiting for our beloved? He is waiting for you...
"Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed,... But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting...Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption….He is always there, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns."
-Pope Francis (Christmas Eve Homily 2014)
Intimacy develops over time. This requires space and patience but also an invitation to communion on whatever level. Sacred Scripture is filled with times of waiting for God to come to his people. He comes and goes at his own appointed time, often waiting for his children to be properly prepared for his coming.
This period of waiting offers time for growing in wisdom, confession and restitution for sin, letting go of grudges and making peace with myself and those around be. What I am waiting for here is a recognition that there is something better, something more, awaiting me. This awareness prompts a readiness for change and greater capacity to receive Him as he chooses to reveal himself to me.
"There are times which cannot be forced; for the birth of a human being, nine months are required; to write a book or a worthy piece of music, years must often be spent in patient searching. This is also the law of the Spirit...to encounter the mystery takes patience, inner purification, silence and waiting."
- Pope Saint John Paul, the Great
May the Lord bless you and keep you this Advent season.
This blog post was adapted from the booklet "SOW-REAPP" written by Deacon Peter Kennedy and published by the Center for Family Life Formation. You can receive a free copy by request to firstname.lastname@example.org or at our First Tuesday event, Tuesday, December 7, 2021 at 7pm at Christ the King in Omaha.