Awaken Our Soul. . .

December 23, 2018

The days are upon us when everything comes to its heightened expression.  Everything accomplished is off the list and the things yet to do intensify our stress levels.   It is exciting and intense and wonderfully magical.  Our desire to make joy happen for others compels us to keep going.  There is an inner energy that seems to appear because what is yet to happen has meaning.  Dinners, travel, gifts, reunions, connections—these find importance and have power.  The specialness of being special, the joy of being chosen leads us to the awakening power of one another.  We do this for others by the simple fact of wanting another to have a Christmas memory that will last forever.

Sounds to Embrace

In the Gospel today we treasure the travel of Mary to visit Elizabeth.  She has one of the most fascinating responses we find in the Gospels.  Elizabeth says, “How does this happen to me?”  She is referring to Mary, the Mother of God coming to visit her.  She is overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, feeling blessed and chosen.  The same comes out in the First Reading, from the Prophet Micah, which says this land shall not be forsaken.  You who are small shall be lifted high because of the birth of the Savior.  The words of the covenant are undeniable.  We are chosen.  We are blessed.  We are to be lifted up.  Yet there is a challenge in all of this.  In our society we have made the experience of being chosen a part of everything and everyday life.  Everyone makes the team, so being a part of the team is not that special.  Since everyone gets a participation award or trophy, earning the trophy loses something.  When we say salvation is for everyone (and it is), we are not singled out as being the one and only or being special.  In these times the focus must be found moving to the intention of the Giver.  God chose to redeem all of us.  The wonder of it, the complexity and majesty of it can become clouded by all of us being put together because we long for the individual specialness.  We not only long for it, we crave it.  In the midst of the many, the individual is not lost in God’s plan or in His heart.  He is doing the choosing,  He is doing the saving.  So how do we get to feel special?

Covenant that Embraces Us

Being chosen by God is awesome.  Knowing everyone else is chosen might take away the specialness unless we move to that deep place where the sacred and holy empower the choice of God.  Mary individually was visited by an angel.  Joseph was individually given the message in a dream to be at peace with the plan.  John the Baptist was individually led by the Spirit to cry out as a voice in the desert.  For us to capture the embrace of God’s individual love, we must allow the Holy Spirit to lead.  Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, calls Mary blessed.  The Spirit is the common experience that is to lead us to the depth only God can share.  Just like when we wrap Christmas presents and we choose them for a single person and put a tag on it, so too when we receive a Sacrament, we individually receive the Real Presence of Jesus, unique in this moment, unique to only us as an individual.  It is not our focus to worry at that moment who else or what else is going on with others.  On the day of Baptism, water is poured individually.  At Confirmation, each person individually receives chrism on their foreheads.  At the Anointing of the Sick, each person individually receives the healing meant from God.  This union is to be reverenced, this union is to be embraced and treasured above all else.  How we receive is an individual thing.  How we allow the Spirit to lead us to deep places makes us unique and special in God’s eyes and in His plan.  God is about salvation and each of us has a part to play.  To trust this we must look deeply into the lives of the individuals found in the Scriptures.  Led by the Spirit they found depth.  God wants us to go deep.

In the blur of the activities set before us, in the energy spent making it happen for others, in the giving and receiving that is such an immense part of Christmas, specialness comes with depth and wisdom.  We know what will excite us, we know what potential lies in the moments when gifts are unwrapped.  We know that the effort made to travel the distance to share these moments is worth the tears of joy that well up in the eyes of another.  We must realize God travels to earth to embrace us.  Jesus is sent to make clear the message of a love that cannot be denied.  Nothing we do can compare to the effort and energy God expends in these days.  Rejoice and reunite with all that is good; let nothing stop us.  Yet in the quiet, in the individual moments of Sacraments received and Sacraments being experienced, may we be led by the Spirit who will fill us, lead us, and deepen our joy.

Reverend John J. Ouper