By Trish Gallagher
A few weeks ago my husband and I met at a local mall restaurant to discuss the details of the upcoming holiday visit of our six children.
The family is gathering for an early Christmas celebration to coincide with our youngest daughter’s college graduation. News was coming in about arrivals, departures, questions about car rentals and options for housing for all.
The word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert.
A word of God came to me in the midst of our intent conversation in the person of a little boy, about 3 years old. I had passed him as we hurried to our table. From the corner of my eye I realized he was trying to get my attention, but I only had one hour before the next meeting of the day and there was so much to decide! I remember thinking, “He must think I’m someone else, because I don’t recognize a family resemblance with anyone in our parish.”
I felt a tug on my sleeve. At first I brushed it off, but then the second, firmer tug came. Well, it’s good we were seated securely in a booth, because I would have jumped high enough to hit my head on the ceiling.
“Look at my shoes,” he said. “Oh,” I replied. “Did you just get them shopping?”
I was missing the point completely. “Oh, no, I got them yesterday.” Since that was a long time ago to this little one, he persisted. “Look at my shoes.” I was looking downward to identify the problem, but I didn’t understand until behind the boy’s shoes two larger shoes appeared — his father’s. He was wearing the exact color and style of shoes as his son. Finally, I got the whole picture: The little boy was the image of his father — not only the shoes, but the jeans, jacket and haircut — and he wanted me to appreciate it.
When I got home that night I got an invitation to write a reflection for Advent. Here it is:
The word of God can come anywhere, even at the mall. It may tug at your sleeve, more than once.
Like John the Baptist who heard the Word in the desert, each week at Mass we have one hour to truly hear the Word and carry it out from our desert place into our real, divided world. Do we really listen, or dismiss it as not really meant for us?
John proclaimed to a divided kingdom ruled by sons of Herod; our far-flung families are often separated by distance, interests or long-held hurts. Do we spend holiday time to heal the hurts?
John cried out “Prepare!” During Advent, when we keep in mind the one who came to us as a little one, do we acknowledge the Father’s gracious preparation for his Son’s arrival? Do we include prayer in our preparations for our family gatherings?
John invited repentance: Just as the River Jordan ran through John’s world, our baptismal waters run through our lives, and we’re called to continually refresh our family ties. In Advent, the sacrament of reconciliation is offered in communal celebrations in many parishes across the diocese. Gathered as God’s family, we listen to the Word, examine our consciences about the divisions in our hearts which have crept in over the year, and accept the healing flow of grace in the words of the priest’s absolution. This grace smoothes the valleys and rough edges of our spiritual lives.
“All flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
If we do respond and repent, do we miss the larger vision? Do we think it’s only about our own rough edges, or are we challenged to see how all of creation is to be reconciled with God our Father? Will we start anew to walk like the Son who came to show us how to be a full reflection of our Father?
Will we take the Advent challenge to make the Christmas cry of “Peace on Earth” truly begin with our own hearts?
(Trish Gallagher is pastoral associate for faith formation for Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport.)