The opening prayer, or collect, for this Second Sunday of Advent Mass asks, ‘Almighty and merciful God, may no earthly undertaking hinder those who set out in haste to meet your Son…’.
What a wonderful request that is when we take the time to really consider it; that God, from whom all grace and goodness flows, is being asked that any who ‘set out in haste’ to meet Jesus, not be slowed down or obstructed by any undertaking of their own making. How appropriate for this time of year, a time of year in which our culture is so preoccupied with buying and getting and having; asking God to help quiet our hearts and minds enough so that we will not be ‘hindered’ or blocked as we hurry towards Christ!
We’ve come to a point where, even amongst entire Catholic families, attendance at Sunday Mass has become just one in a series of ‘activities’ to be taken into consideration when drafting our calendars for the week. There may be other things to do on a Sunday morning (or Saturday evening for that matter) that would conflict – sports activities, recreational events, meetings, dinners, brunches, etc.; we make up our list of ‘activities’ by priority, and skip the ones that we can to make way for the more ‘important’ things.
Sadly, that often means that attendance at Holy Mass becomes just another ‘activity’ and quite often ‘loses out’ in terms of priority and gets dropped from the ‘to do’ list on Sunday morning.
But what greater priority can there be than gathering as a family – as a community of believers – to give thanks and praise and worship to the One who gives us everything – even the opportunities to have busy schedules and a lifestyle that permits us the luxury of having ‘priority lists’ of activities. God gives us 168 hours in a week – how could the cost be so great to us of giving back just one of those hours on that one day weekly?
The Gospel today from St. Luke recounts how St. John the Baptist, (quoting from the book of the prophet Isaiah) is the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’,” – for people of faith (and I really believe it doesn’t matter how latent and lax a faith practice becomes) we all have our own inner ‘St. John the Baptist’ crying out in our own spiritual deserts to ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’. Advent is a reminder to us of the need to open up our hearts, shake the dust from them, clear some space for the Lord to once again take up residence! When we feel that calling, and respond, there is an increase from within of a sense of importance, or priority , of ‘haste’ – and the more we surrender to that sense of priority, the greater that sense becomes.
But it all starts with ordering our ‘priorities’ honestly, and looking to the One who fills us with so many good things that we can even have a ‘to do list’. It all starts with accepting that grace to set aside anything that ‘hinders’ us in setting out ‘in haste’ to meet Jesus in our daily lives, and in all of those we encounter.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!