Immersed in Christ: December 7, 2020
Monday of the Second Week of Advent
Praise God for the Whole Picture
“Our God will come to save us!”
To praise God, read today’s readings. The first is pure poetry; it sets our feelings in motion. But then go back and take another look. Recognize the completeness of what is promised. Praise God in detail, and see how the details add up. What we praise we will appreciate. Praise makes us aware of what is good in the Good News.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the Lord—for he proclaims peace to his people…
And more than peace. The Good News promises to meet the fundamental—the root—desires, needs and hopes of the human heart. What are they?
DESIRE FOR BEING: God promises life, security: Our God will come to save us!
Isaiah says, “Be strong, fear not. Strengthen the weak. Say to the frightened, ‘Here is your God… he comes to save you.’ Praise God for giving us being, for his strength, his protection. What we praise we will appreciate. Praise makes us aware. Praise gives us confidence.
“Streams will burst forth in the desert. The burning sands will become pools, springs of water.” The earth will provide for all our needs. God promises it. Praise God for his providence. Notice what he provides. What we praise we will notice. Praise gives us felt security.
Praise God for life and being. Jesus said, “I live because of the Father” (John 6:57). So do we. Praise makes us aware of it.
DESIRE FOR WHAT IS GOOD: God promises:
“Steadfast love and faithfulness shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss…
“The LORD will speak peace to his people, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
“The LORD will give what is good,
“Our land shall give bountiful crops.
“Justice shall walk before him,
“And will make a path for his steps.
“His salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
“That his glory may dwell in our land.”
“And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25).
Can you think of any fundamental good that God has not provided? Any deep desire of the human heart that cannot find satisfaction in what God gives? Or that can find satisfaction apart from God? Even what is good in sin comes from God; evil is the absence of something that should be included.
Praise God every time you enjoy anything. Praise makes us appreciate the one it comes from. Praise makes us aware of God as giver.
DESIRE FOR TRUTH: God promises understanding, enlightenment: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).
The Psalm says, “Truth shall spring out of the earth…” Truth is right before our eyes—if we open them and notice. Praising is noticing.
“The eyes of the blind will be opened…” Our secularist culture, that suppresses any public expression of truth or values that relativists reject, blinds us to what we know and believe in. Praise restores us to awareness of ourselves as knowing God.
“The ears of the deaf will be cleared.” In all but the privacy of our homes and churches, our culture imposes silence on the expression of any truth society bans as not “politically correct.” The “religion of relativism” seeks to make us effectively deaf by assuring there is nothing to hear. But to those who are poised to praise, God’s voice cries out from all creation: “Here I am!” What we praise we will notice and appreciate. Praise opens our ears to the “sounds of silence” by opening our lips. “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Psalm 51:15).
DESIRE FOR BEAUTY: God promises:
“The steppe will rejoice and bloom with abundant flowers,
“The glory of Lebanon will be given,
“The splendor of Carmel and Sharon.”
Beauty has been defined as “unity amid variety.” When we recognize that the multiple shapes we see are actually structures in which the unifying focus of a Creator’s intentionality shines out, we see beauty. When we recognize order and design we see beauty. Beauty is proportionality perceived as planned. But perception and praise go together. What we perceive we must praise to be fully aware. What we praise we appreciate. Praise makes us perceptive.
DESIRE FOR HEALING: All of us carry wounds. All of us are handicapped, diminished in some way. Isaiah promises:
“Here is your God,
“He comes to save you.
“He comes with vindication; with divine recompense.
“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared.
“Then will the lame leap like a stag,
“Then the tongue of the mute will sing.”
“Sorrow and mourning will flee.”
Like the ten lepers Jesus healed (Luke 17:12), do we “return and give praise to God” only ten percent of the time? Less than that? If we do not, Jesus implies our healing will not be a faith experience. What we praise we will appreciate. Praise makes us aware.
God has opened our eyes to his truth. Praise him for what you see when you read Scripture, when you understand the meaning of life.
God has opened our ears to his word. Praise him for what you hear at Mass.
God has enabled us to walk in his way. Praise him for giving us a path to follow.
God has enabled us to “leap like a stag” over some obstacles; and to crawl over others. Praise him whenever you meet a challenge.
God has given us something to say about him. Don’t be mute. Praise him by saying it. At Mass, sing out consciously to praise him. What we praise we will appreciate.
God has given us an answer to sorrow and mourning. When we praise him for it, we realize there is one.
When the paralytic Jesus healed stood up, he “went home, glorifying God.” Then all who saw and heard him glorified God. And, “struck with awe, they said, ‘We have seen incredible things today.’”
So will we, if we praise God for what we see and hear. What we praise we will appreciate. Praise makes us aware.
Behold the king will come, the Lord of the earth,
and he himself will lift the yoke of our captivity.
DESIRE FOR MOVEMENT: No one wants to stagnate. Anyone who does not grow declines. If we do not move we atrophy.
But without a goal, we can’t start. And without a path, we can’t get anywhere. So Isaiah tells us God promises a path that leads to the goal of life:
“A highway will be there, called the holy way;
“It is for those with a journey to make.
“No one unclean may pass over it,
“Nor fools go astray on it.
“On it the redeemed will walk,
“The ransomed will return
“And enter Zion singing,
“Crowned with everlasting joy.”
Praise God for showing us the way. Praise Jesus for being “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). What we praise we will appreciate. Praise makes us aware that we have a path. Praise incites us to follow it. Praise propels us to the Good.
But the path to “the fullness of life” is not for everyone. “It is for those with a journey to make”—those who desire the “more” of a more complete, more total, more integral spiritual life; those who are not content to just “stay in bounds” as law-observing Christians, but who want to actually move toward the goal they were made for: to know God with their whole mind, love God with their whole heart, and serve God with their whole strength (Mark 12:30). These are “those with a journey to make.” They are looking for a path.
And there is one. It is called “the holy way.” The “unclean” may pass over it if they accept to be purified. And even “fools” will not “go astray on it,” provided they accept to be guided. The only requirement is to be one of those who know they “have a journey to make.” To them Isaiah promises, “they will enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.”
DESIRE FOR ONENESS: God said when he created us: “It is not good that humans should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
But we are deeply, fundamentally alone until we express ourselves together. We cannot experience ourselves as a nation without holidays, as a church without celebrations, as a family without birthdays. We can’t really experience ourselves as married without a wedding. Humans have to express themselves to know who they are. They have to express themselves together to know they are united. What we express we will appreciate. Self-expression makes us aware of ourselves as persons. Communal expression makes us aware of ourselves as a community.
God has “made lonely flesh welcome to creation” (Christopher Fry: Thor, With Angels). To those he has delivered from loneliness he promises joy and happiness in communal celebration:
“The redeemed, the ransomed will return
“And enter Zion singing,
“Crowned with everlasting joy and gladness.”
When we celebrate together, “sorrow and mourning will flee.”
What we celebrate we will appreciate. Celebration makes us aware.
If we truly celebrate at Mass—consciously joining others in praising God for what the Mass expresses—we will experience ourselves as a community of faith. And of hope.
And of life-giving love.
We will hear what God proclaims… Our God will come to save us!
DAILY PRACTICE: Be aware. Don’t settle for less. Keep repeating, “I will hear what God proclaims.” And live for it.
ADVENT PRAYER: “Lord, give me life—to the full!”