Advent: God’s Attention to the Tensions of Humanity.
Advent 2022, a beautiful opportunity to feel and live, at the very heart of the turbulence of our time, the attention and the particular solicitude of God for each one, for humanity as a whole and for all creation.
To feel and live this exceptional experience of the attention of God for whom we count beyond our own understanding, I invite us to refer to the adventure of Zacchaeus in Luke 19, 1-10.
Breathless from the frantic pursuit of possession and the accumulation of earthly wealth, Zacchaeus felt a lack of human fulfillment. And it was in this state that he feared that the mere sight of Jesus would fill his existential emptiness. So for him, climbing a sycamore tree despite his fame and social standing did not matter. He wasn’t afraid of being laughed at and told what to say. For him, the only thing that mattered at that moment was to see Jesus.
Zacchaeus could not imagine for a moment that Jesus would pay him such special attention as to invite himself into his home: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly: today I must stay in your house.
Jesus’ attention more than fulfilled Zacchaeus’ desire, tension and expectation.
To feel, to live, to experience God’s attention is at the heart of the Advent journey.
During the 4 weeks of Advent, we are invited to better appreciate and celebrate this attention of God that invites itself to us and that translates into the expectation of the advent/event of the birth of Jesus, the Emmanuel, God-with-us, God always at our side.
To draw strength from God’s care for us, for humanity and for creation as a whole, allows us to take on our existential trajectory in a different way, with a different view of our past in order to better live God’s today with the certainty that God is God and that in Him, through Him and with Him, the “future” is in the present.
To draw strength from the certainty that God remains at our side forever allows us to catch our breath no matter what happens.
This is what the prophet Isaiah, a herald of the Advent season, translated to his contemporaries who were bending under the weight of difficulties, saying to them: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God, speak to the heart of Jerusalem and cry out to it that its service is accomplished… The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Is 40:1-2.8).
Emmanuel, God-with-us, is God’s consolation for his people, for each and every one of us.
It is in Him that we have being, existence and movement (cf. Acts 17:28).
It is in Him alone that we can catch our breath, find in the depths of our being the Breath of God that has always dwelt in us.
Yes, we need to catch our breath, to find again the breath of God in us, this breath that we have suffocated by selfish interests (cf. Luke 8:14) that darken our hearts and poison harmony and living together in our families, our communities and among nations.
Refueling in God’s care allows us to grow fully and to participate in the growth of others.
Recharging ourselves in God’s care allows us not to suffocate each other in humanity as well as the planet which is our common home.
Finally, recharging ourselves in God’s care allows us to better refine our attention to the Other and to others in order to promote harmony of hearts and minds.
This is what Zacchaeus understood in the attentive and loving gaze of Jesus who transformed him from top to bottom: “Here, Lord: I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have wronged someone, I will give him back four times as much.
Definitely, Jesus’ attention has brought to light Zacchaeus’ noble and deep heart.
Advent, then, is the Lord our God who comes to meet us and who invites himself to our home to pitch his tent.
Advent invites us and stimulates us to take the time, four weeks, to allow the Lord to take us out of our “hyper-tensions” to let us taste the joy of his particular attention and his permanent solicitude in our existence and in the events of the world.
And when our human “hyper-tensions” give way to the attention of Jesus, the peace of Christmas is born in our hearts, in our families, in our communities and in our world.
Attention, expectation, encounter and harmony: these are the key words that can mark out our Advent 2022 journey.
Father Jean-Baptiste Vérité K. KPODZO, Member of the Pastoral Team, Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal