Saturday, December 3, 2011
Are You Ready to Receive Good News?
A dozen or so years ago, a woman asked me to go with her to inform her mother that her son had committed suicide. When we got to her apartment building, we rang the bell and got buzzed in. We took the elevator upstairs and when we arrived at the apartment door, we knocked. The mother opened the door, looked at her daughter and then at me. When she saw me, she immediately leaned against the wall and lowered herself to the floor. She intuitively knew what message we were delivering and she needed to brace herself to receive the horrific news.
We often feel the need to prepare others (and ourselves) for bad news. We lead up to it in the hopes that they will be better able to handle the situation. "I have some difficult news for you." "I have to tell you something very sad." Such preparation respects their humanity. We need to be made ready to receive life-changing news.
The readings this Sunday remind us that it is not only bad news for which we need to be prepared. We need to be prepared to receive the Good News. We need to be prepared to welcome the Gospel. St. Mark begins his Gospel by telling us right up front, "This is the Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God." And then, we are brought immediately out to the desert with John the Baptist who is preparing people for the coming of the Good News. They and us need to be ready to receive this Good News.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all in the desert. It is the human condition--a condition that makes us yearn for fulfillment, completion, and perfection. We hunger for truth, for beauty, for goodness, and for justice. But, we tend to rebel against this emptiness and attempt to manufacture solutions to it. And these attempts turn our emptiness into a dismal abyss that deprives us of hope.
But John the Baptist and Advent show us another way. Our emptiness cannot be solved by our efforts, but our emptiness can become the place of our encounter with Christ. It was in the emptiness of the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the Good News became flesh. Our part, in a sense, is to safeguard our emptiness and when we fail to do so, to repent. If we live this Advent with a greater acknowledgement of our need and of our dependence upon Another, then we are in the perfect postion to receive the Good News--Jesus Christ.