02 December 2013

A Little Child Shall Lead Them (Reprise)

This morning (1st Sunday of Advent) I served as an EEM for one of the Masses. It is something I usually only do to fill in when someone else can't come for one reason and another, but I love doing it because of the unique dynamics of sharing and worship involved. Today a Father and Daughter appproached me, and the child was too young for Communion so she expected a word and gesture of "blessing". As I smiled at her and reached down to do that she slipped a small folded square of paper into my hand. Surprised and touched I looked at it very briefly, thanked her, wished her a wonderful season, and put the paper in the pocket of my habit beneath my cowl. I gave her Father, who smiled as he watched all this, Communion, and finished with the rest of this service.

Before I went back to my place though, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the little square of paper. For the first time I saw that it had "Jesus" printed on the front. This little girl clearly knew who THIS was supposed to go to and I guess she figured I could deliver it! When I opened it I saw that the she had drawn a picture of herself smiling with arms outstretched. In approaching God's altar she had brought herself as a gift. It was the most incredible little "love note" I have ever seen, and it is precisely what Advent (or Christian life more generally) is all about.

When I got home I looked ahead to Tuesday's readings [we have the same readings this Tuesday, 2013] because we will have a Communion service that morning due to our Pastor's need to celebrate a funeral Mass elsewhere and the illness of our other resident priest. Imagine how I felt when I saw that Tuesday's Gospel was from Luke (Lk 10:22) and is the continuation of the passage where Jesus criticizes trusting the intelligence and sophistication of the world and tells his disciples they should become as little children! "The things of God are hidden from the wise and learned and revealed to the childlike."

Well, the miracle I had just experienced is what he is speaking of: namely, coming to Jesus without self consciousness, aware that anything is possible (including a hermit delivering a child's love note to Jesus!), and ready to give oneself and one's gifts, no matter how humble or silly in worldly terms, to become Christ for others, part of the Cosmic Christ no matter our apparent insignificance: it is to these that God's power will really be revealed. It is these IN WHOM God's power will be revealed to us! Afterall, we are the ones who celebrate that God himself could and did reveal himself exhaustively to us in human flesh. We are the foolish ones who believe that evident in the infant Jesus is the awesome power of a love which dwarfs and overcomes all other powers in our world and will indeed heal and perfect the whole of creation! We are the ones who believe that our's is indeed a God whose power (i.e., his sovereign, merciful, and infinitely creative love) is perfected, not mitigated, in weakness.

Now, before I received this precious love note we had just listened to a homily on being open to God acting in awesome and surprising ways and at unexpected times. The presider and homilist encouraged us to set aside our agendas and, as the Scriptures asked, to be aware and watchful: expect the unexpected, be open to the sovereign Creator God who comes in surprising ways and meets us in the unexpected place. Well, I had expected to meet God there in the Eucharist, but I had not expected to receive a small and wonderful miracle like this: a living homily, an enacted parable, which itself was far more powerful than the priest or any theologian, with all their theological learning and sophistication could have given. As Jesus implicitly asks of us on Tuesday, setting the tone and agenda for Advent, "become as little children" for, as Isaiah tells us in the first lection, "a little child shall lead (us)". I encourage you to let the image of THIS little one in Christ -- lead you. It is certainly what I am going to do. After all, she writes love letters to Jesus and approaches God's altar to faithfully entrust  herself through them to hermit nuns for delivery when she is not yet even allowed to receive Communion! She understands Christmas and the reason for Advent completely. She embodied it perfectly at that moment. Standing before the altar of God she WAS the gift she was made to be; is there any doubt that God was absolutely delighted as he contemplated this pure instance of his Kingdom fulfilled right here and now?

P.S. the note resides in the Tabernacle here at Stillsong for the time being. My littlest homilist and living parable wanted it delivered, and, in more ways than this of course, delivered it has been!