A Reflection by Fr. Lou DelFra, csc
The advertising industry might be a lot of things, but one of them is not dumb. It knows what can captivate us – things that offer fulfillment to our needs and longings as human beings.
It is, in part, in response to these same longings of our heart, that the Church celebrates the season of Advent over the next four weeks. Deep in the heart of Judeo-Christian spirituality is the realization that we as human beings have a deep openness at the center of our being. This openness constantly longs for fulfillment. We experience it alternatively as excitement or anxiety, a capacity for intimacy or loneliness, feelings of anticipation or dread.
All our wants, all our needs – the need for nourishment, the need for companionship, the need for wholeness and joy – all of these longings are manifestations of that openness and incompleteness at the very core of our being.
St. Augustine, in the fourth century wrote famously: "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, our hearts are restless, until they rest in you." These somewhat plaintive but ultimately hopeful words express one reason why the Advent Season is such a powerful time of preparation for us. Advent is four weeks where we give our deepest longing full voice. We long, explicitly and wholeheartedly during these days, for the fulfillment of our destiny – our salvation, our oneness with God.
On the First Sunday of Advent, Christ warns against allowing that desire for the deepest wholeness to get confused with longings for more temporary fulfillment. He cautions: "In the days of Noah, before the flood, everyone was eating and drinking, and then the flood came and carried them away."
Christ is not trying to scare us into obedience with some impending cataclysm. He's cautioning us: Don't get too caught up in fulfilling all your temporary desires. They're fine, but they're merely signs of a reality much deeper – the desire to be totally fulfilled, totally complete and at peace, within yourself and with one another, completely filled with joy, by finally becoming one with God.
So, this is the first message of Advent: "Stay awake! Be alert!" For the fulfillment of our deepest desire is on His way.
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