SECOND FRIDAY OF ADVENT
SCRIPTURE: MATTHEW 11:16-19
Jesus said to the crowds:
"To what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,
'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.'
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
'He is possessed by a demon.'
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'
But wisdom is vindicated by her works."
In today’s Gospel, Jesus powerfully cuts through the excuses of the crowds. Some people rejected John the Baptist because his lifestyle was so ascetic and extreme; the same folks dismissed Jesus because he ate and drank freely, spending time with tax collectors and sinners. The Lord’s point is that we human beings can pretty much always find a ready-made excuse to justify our predetermined opinions and decisions. So often, God does not fit our categories of judgment or act the way we think He should. In such moments, the strong temptation is to walk away from God rather than let Him stretch our concepts and understanding of the Divine Mystery.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of the Cross, the famed Carmelite mystic who penned “The Dark Night of the Soul” and the “Ascent of Mount Carmel.” The Lord led John into a profound contemplative experience which went beyond all categories of understanding God. Constantly surrendering the limits of his mental concepts of the Divine, John of the Cross embraced a purifying dark night in his soul where God led him to a deep union with Himself. All of his thoughts about who God is were shattered.
John of the Cross would tell us that God’s light is so bright, it appears to our senses as darkness. God’s presence is so profound that it appears to us as absence. God is love, but His love is so beyond our grasp of what love could be that John would assert that God is not love because it is so much bigger than our puny concepts. Such ideas may take time for us to understand and get used to but if we are open to a life of deeply meditative prayer, the Lord will gently but firmly lead us to a deeper experience of Himself and show us the vast universe of His heart.
When you think about it, this life is a tremendous mystery. We do not choose to be born; we do not know how or when we will die. We live for a brief time on this planet on the conviction that an eternal life awaits us in some other grand dimension of existence, but we know not how. We are here to fall in love with God, to know His ways and to bring others with us into this new life in Christ. The fact that many people rejected Jesus should come as no surprise because His very Incarnation as the Son of God in human flesh shatters all of our categories of how we think God should act. Can we embrace this mysterious Lord whose love transcends all logic and reason?
When we suffer a debilitating loss, when we experience deep sorrow, when life comes apart on us and God seems very distant, cry we should, question we must, but in the end can we surrender and trust that God’s love has not abandoned us and that we are being led into the Divine Mystery where words, ideas and concepts fail to express what we have come to know? Today’s readings and feast teach us that God is bigger than we think and that if we dare to enter more deeply into the Divine Mystery, we will find God in darkness as well as light, sorrow as well as joy, not knowing and knowing at the same time. When we feel stretched, disoriented, off-kilter, as crazy as it sounds, TRUST and REJOICE because God is doing something beautiful. Just hang on for the ride!
How is God stretching you this Advent?
How has your understanding of the Lord changed this past year?
Most Reverend Donald J. Hying, installed as the Fourth Bishop of Gary on January 6, 2015, was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on May 20, 1989. On July 20, 2011, he was ordained the seventh Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Prior to being named auxiliary bishop, Bishop Hying served as Rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary from 2007 to 2011, appointed by then-Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan. Bishop Hying served as Temporary Administrator at St. Augustine Parish, Milwaukee in 2006; Dean of Formation at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, from 2005 to 2007. He was Pastor at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, Milwaukee from 1999 to 2005; Associate Pastor at St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee from 1998 to 1999. Hying served as Temporary Administrator at St. Peter Parish, East Troy, 1998; Team Member for La Sagrada Familia Parroquia, Dominican Republic from 1994 to 1997. His first priestly assignment was as associate pastor for St. Anthony Parish, Menomonee Falls from 1989 to 1994.
Bishop Hying is a native of West Allis, Wisconsin. He was born to Albert and Catherine Hying (both deceased) on August 18, 1963, and is the youngest of six sons. He attended St. Aloysius and Immaculate Heart of Mary grade schools, Brookfield Central High School, and Marquette University. He earned his Masters of Divinity from Saint Francis de Sales Seminary.
Bishop Hying serves as the Episcopal Liaison for National Association of Catholic Chaplains and as Episcopal Advisor to the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He is also a member of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.