Awaken Our Soul…

December 16, 2018

It is a week of rejoicing.  We are now closer to the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas), as more of the season of Advent is behind us than is in front of us.  This can challenge us.  We can be tired of Advent, or lulled into numbness by it, or we can look to the future and realize time is fleeting as we need to get our soul in shape to receive a Savior.  So often we start well and finish with no energy.  How can we change that this Advent?

Sounds to Embrace

Have you ever found yourself at a stoplight or in a parking lot when in the vehicle next to you the sound of music is overwhelming and loud?  Have you ever wondered how anyone can think with that loud music blaring?   Pumping up the volume sometimes takes its form of reaction in an argument.  Needing to make a point of being heard, the person raises the voice.  We all react to loud noises.  Today we are to embrace the sound of joy that cannot be contained.  The prophet Zephaniah tells us in the First Reading that we are to shout for joy and sing joyfully as one sings at a festival.  When do we feel so uplifted by God that we want to shout, we want to yell and scream and not care what anyone else thinks?  Have we had those moments?  Children are spontaneous in this and we have a lot to learn from them.  They can shriek and tremble with joy.  Advent is looking for this response.  We are to seek what gives us this experience.  While noise can be made for any reason, this joy, this uplifting sound is to be an invitation and a statement of our trust in God.  What holds us back from yelling in great joy after we receive communion?  What keeps us from telling others our joy?  Why are we so contained in our expression?  Watching others pump up the volume should challenge us to ask ourselves, why not me?

Covenant that Embraces Us

John the Baptist offers us a doorway into how we are to prepare.  He begins by answering the question what we are to do.  Many came to him, as we hear in the Gospel, and he tells them point blank here is what you are to do, no guessing game.  So often we are afraid to ask God what we are to do, for fear of the answer.  We fear the answer might be too great, too self-emptying, too much of a sacrifice.  We might like asking God to show us the way, but then we make choices on our own as what we would like to do.  At other times, we are afraid of a direct response, so we often avoid the question.  John tells us to ask the deep question, we will find that we are not the controller of our own destiny.  There is One who saves us and we are not Him.  John is up front in knowing his place.  There is the One and true One that is to come after and we are nothing compared to Him.  This is good news.  The weight of the world is not ours.  Jesus takes it all on.  This is the commitment God made.  The One to come, Jesus, would baptize us with fire and the Holy Spirit.  This fire will change the earth.  This Holy Spirit will uplift our life with the gifts that allow us to know our God intimately.  This is the promise that is to bring us joy.  We do not have to do the saving, God has it under control.

Clarity of who we are as a beloved of God, as a chosen of God, as a child of God is a place of great rejoicing.  We are invited to choose this mindset.  When can joy erupt within us?  So often we have had it and it eludes us.  Why?  When I was training for the Boston marathon in 2010 I had to train during the winter because the marathon is in April.  There was such a spark in my running.  Since then I have lost that will and desire.  On a recent walk/run I was thinking about those days and how I would get up, drive 45 minutes to Villa Park from Glen Ellyn just to find a part of the Prairie Path that was plowed from the snow.  I would pack extra New Balance shoes and Under Armour layers, Adidas sweats and Nike clothes to change out of in the freezing cold on long runs at the halfway point of my training run.  I made my car the point of reference as I did 8 mile repeats to always end up at the car for water and a change of hat and mittens.  It was a blast and I found an inner joy.  So what was the source of this inner joy?  Was it the end line?  Was it the promise of running the most prestigious marathon in the world?  If the source of inner joy is the end line, then why do we not get ourselves invested in the mission of the Church as its goal, its finish line is eternity with God.  Why doesn’t eternity energize us to sing for joy?  To shout loudly we have to go deeply into our soul and know that God is God and there is no other.  We have to go to that place where only God can find us and know that He not only wants to reach us, but He wants to love us, cherish us and redeem us.  For this my heart and soul rejoices and for this alone can I sing a song that will never end.  I struggle to find that person every day, I struggle to keep eternity the real finish line in my life.  But when I do find it or it finds me, there is no stopping me or its joy.

Reverend John J. Ouper