Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

The-Finding-of-the-Saviour-in-the-Temple-by-William-Holman-Hunt

The Finding of the Savior in the Temple, by William Holman Hunt

Recently, my Mom and I lost track of my sister while grocery shopping.  To put this in context, my sister, though older than I, has Asperger Syndrome and developmental delays. Normally, she is allowed some freedom when we are in places familiar to us, as long as she keeps contact with her cell phone.

This particular day, she did not check in. Neither did she answer her phone. Many, many times.

Anyone who has lost someone they are responsible for knows that sinking feeling. Knows all the horrible possibilities that come to mind as you are searching for that person.

Now imagine that person that you have lost is the greatest gift God has given to mankind. And He gave this gift, this Person, for you to be responsible for. And you went and lost Him. For three days. The anxiety of losing my sister for a few minutes was awful. I can’t imagine losing Christ for three days. Mary and Joseph must have been hysterical.

When they found him, the relief must have been just as hysterical, and mixed with another very natural reaction after losing a person for whom you were responsible… anger. Why didn’t you stay with us? Why didn’t you check in? What the heck did you think you were doing?

My sister got spotted by a grocery store worker. She had forgotten what her ringtone sounded like. She got yelled at and reeducated on what her phone sounded like. It would have been a lot worse if she had been lost for hours… or days. Especially for an oversight like letting us know where she was.

So, all things considered, I think Mary’s response to finding Jesus was rather… controlled. “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

How many times have we asked that of Christ? “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you with great anxiety.” And we should be anxious upon losing Christ, whether it be for hours, days, weeks, years. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without Him there is nothing and life feels empty. Life is empty.

I imagine that Mary and Joseph’s world felt pretty empty without Christ as they searched for Him. So a rebuke from Mary, no matter how gentle, was natural.

What is more interesting to me, however, was Jesus’ response. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

Why indeed?

This was no regular child for whom they sought. This was the Christ.

He is never lost. He is always where He should be. Right there. Waiting. In His Father’s house.

It is we who get lost along the way. Who get distracted. We travel in a different direction than Christ, leaving Him behind in His Father’s House. He is ready to be found any time we are ready to find Him. And no matter many times we lose Him in this life, no matter how long, He is always there. He is always waiting in His Father’s House. Ready to be found once more by those of us who have lost Him.

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There Is No Need To Be Afraid…

“There is no need to be afraid; in five days our Lord will come to us.” 

(Canticle of Zechariah Antiphon, Morning Prayer, December 21)

 

We Catholics know a thing or two about Advent. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve experienced many Advents. We’ve got this.

But where Lent gets a lot of attention — “Gotta give something up… man, can’t wait for Easter!” — Advent sort of gets forgotten in the rush to prepare for Christmas. There are presents to be bought, decorations to be put up, cookies to be baked, and, in my house, Christmas movies that must be watched before the grace-period before Christmas is over and you have to wait until next year. Yet, in all the bustle and busyness in the name of Christmas prep, Advent sort of gets forgotten. And Christmas gets short-changed.

“There is no need to be afraid; in five days Our Lord will come to us.”

Christmas is an Event. With a capital E. A Celebration with a capital C. This is where it all began. With Christ’s Birth, He put wheels in motion to save all mankind from their sins.

But we know that, right? We grew up Catholic. We know we’re celebrating Christ’s birthday. This isn’t our first Christmas. What do you think we’re getting ready for?

Yes, we know the Christmas is Christ’s birthday. But in all the rush of the season added to everyday life, we don’t stop to appreciate what this means. Christ didn’t need to be born. He already Was and always will Be. This was gratis. He didn’t owe us a thing. And yet He accepted this awful, blessed degradation to take on the nature of His own creation to save it from itself. This Event we celebrate each year with such a blasé attitude isn’t just beautiful — it is amazing, it is awesome. It is an Event that needs to be counted down to, appreciated for its full worth.

But so often Advent slips us by, especially this year, when Christmas occurs so close to the fourth Sunday of Advent. And when Advent slips us by, so too does the full appreciation of Christmas.

“There is no need to be afraid; in five days Our Lord will come to us.”

In my family, we count down to our birthdays. They’re kind of a big deal. It’s frowned upon to buy things we want for ourselves a month or more in advance of the birthday and the actual celebration lasts at least a week. If not more. The celebration, when it happens, is big. There are presents, there is a special dinner at home, there’s a special dinner in a restaurant. That person is king or queen of the day/week. It is made all the better because of the anticipation leading up to the main event.

A birthday is a big deal. It is the day we first came into this world. It should be celebrated.

Christmas is one of the biggest events in human history. And Christ being born among us is the greatest gift, leading to opportunity of eternal happiness beyond this life. It is like a second birthday! It must be prepared for, appreciated, counted down to!

And just like the birthday seems so much sweeter after we deny ourselves those good things we want until our birthday, how much better would Christmas seem with a little bit of self-denial leading up to it? We are preparing for Christ’s coming! It’s more than a week of celebration! We celebrate Christmas for twelve days! Wow!

The present buying and wrapping, the Christmas cards, the cookie baking, the decorating — these things are all good. But don’t forget Advent in the midst of the bustle. Give up a little something. Or do something extra… pray even a decade of the Joyful mysteries of the rosary. Think about what is to come. Remember what it actually is that we are about to celebrate.

Every year, I say I’m going to have a real Advent. Every year I say I’m going to pray more, I’m going to sacrifice more. I am going to win this Advent. Every year, work seems to get crazy right around Christmas. I get behind on life. I miss Advent.

I have missed most of my Advent.

But I don’t need to be afraid. I have five days until the Lord comes to us. I might not be able to keep up with my grand plans for prayer and sacrifice. But I can still prepare, I can still meditate, I can still strive to remember what this all is for.

And then when Christmas comes, the Celebration will be more than good. It will be awesome.

Sing Out

Sing out, O Soul,

To One Most Worthy,

One Most Loving,

One Most Gracious.

 ***

He alone

Is worthy of such joy,

Such happy outpouring,

Such musical expression.

 ***

How can a heart not sing

When faced with the Lord?

He has made sunrise and sunset,

Mountain and river,

Desert and beach.

All things worth loving

Reflect His Beauty

And bursts into song.

 ***

Sing out and dance,

Let your joy be known!

Ours is not a melancholy God,

Not a God of sour piety.

Rejoice in our Savior,

Our Creator,

Our Lord.

Give Praise to Him

Who gives us strength.

Let it be known

That all that we are,

All that we love,

Comes first from Him.

 ***

Give glory and praise,

Alleluia!

Degradation

How can I thank You

For that which You’ve given?

Come down from Heaven,

From Glory,

From Majesty,

To be born upon Earth,

In squalor

In poverty.

As a Babe,

So small,

So Helpless,

So unmajestic and inglorious.

 ***

Nor did You choose

A king’s palace to live in.

First in Exile,

An alien,

An outcast.

Then a nobody,

A carpenter’s son,

Then a carpenter

In Your own right.

 ***

Even in ministry

You sought not

Kings, nor men of power,

But all who would listen:

The poor,

The sinner.

 ***

Your final End

Was even more inglorious.

Torture and mocking.

Spitting and taunts.

The death of a criminal

Public death on a Cross.

Hung between thieves

Made like unto highwaymen.

 ***

You are not content

To halt there

In Your loving Degradation.

From God to Man:

The Creator took form of the creation.

From Man to Bread:

From Creator to food of the created.

 ***

O Holy Degradation,

O Loving Degradation,

Willing Victim,

Eucharistic King.

Suffering all things

To bring Salvation

To those unworthy,

Incapable,

Of bringing about their own salvation.

 ***

More than Humility,

More than what Justice required.

Mercy Incarnate,

Overwhelming Love

Shown forth

In a most Blessed Degradation.

How can we complain of our own sufferings

When You have given so much?

 

To Jesus, in the Sacrament

Sacerdosalterchristus

(A love letter written to Jesus after the reception of the Eucharist)


O Sacrament Most Holy

O Sacrament Most Adorable

O Most Lovable, Most Loving Lord,

I love You not as You Deserve.

*

On my own, I am unable

To achieve such heights of Love.

O Love, O Loving One,

Most Adorable

And Most Gracious,

Grant me a portion of Your Love

To make my own

To then return to You.

*

Such Degradation I have not known,

Such that You have taken on,

First upon the Cross

For the sins of the unworthy,

Then daily upon the Altar

Within the Host

Within the Hearts

Of those still unworthy of Your Love.

*

May the Earth ring out.

May the Angels sing praise.

May my heart

And those of the faithful

And the unfaithful

Declare the Greatness

Of One so loving

So worthy

So under-appreciated by all.

*

Sweet Mother Mary,

Help me praise Him.

Dear Guardian Angel,

Help me to lift my whole heart

To declare love of Him

Who loves me so much.

O Saints of Heaven,

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Help me to show love of Him

By living His Love,

His Mercy,

His Joy,

In this, the life given to me.