A homily by Fr. Matthew Habiger
Advent is a time of longing, of yearning to have our deep seated desires satisfied. We naturally, instinctively, have deep desires for something greater than what we presently have. Have you noticed that, once you have gained something you wanted, some toy, some recognition, some new experience, you returned to that same state of longing, and desire something even better, something greater? With a new Advent, we experience again a greater longing for the presence of God in our lives.
As God designed us, we have an infinite capacity, an infinite desire for those things that we think will satisfy us, things that will make us happy. Eventually we realize that those desires were placed in us by God. That is the way he designed us. Those are the capacities he has endowed us with. If we did not have a capacity for something, then we would never miss it, and would not be in a state of desiring it. Only the infinite can satisfy an infinite desire. If the goods and delights of this world do not ultimately satisfy, then we know that we are destined for something greater than what this world can offer.
During this new Advent, we eagerly await a coming closer to God, an experience of his greater presence in our lives. He alone is the one who can fully satisfy us. He alone has all the great gifts and qualities that will fully satisfy us.
It helps then, to briefly reflect upon some of those goods and qualities of God, that we so eagerly long for during the Advent Season.
We long for beauty. There is a part of our lives that only beauty can satisfy. I enjoy the beauty of the liturgical creations that Fr. Aaron designs for the monastic dining hall. Think of other expressions of beauty: autumn leaves, the sunrise and sunset, pictures of distant galaxies from the Hubble telescope. Think of great music, great literature, inspired sculpture and architecture. Think of great cinema. Think of a well-played athletic event. Once we have experienced beauty in one of these forms, and have delighted in it, once we have assimilated it into our memory, then we are ready for an even greater expression of beauty. God is the great model and archetype of beauty. He is the inspiration that motivates the artist to create some expression of beauty. This Advent, we long to experience something of the beauty of God in a greater way than ever before. His beauty is inexhaustible.
We long for the truth. We have a capacity, that is God-given, to see things as they really are, as God himself designed them. This is a college town, and there is a culture, an atmosphere, of learning here. You don’t fully benefit from living here unless you have some connection with the learning process. Young students naturally want to satisfy the great craving they feel to understand the world they live in, to know the rich heritage of knowledge and human experience they have inherited. They want to develop all their talents, and discover who they really are.
The love of learning, the pursuit of truth, is never finished. That is because truth is inexhaustible. The more we know about something, the more we come to realize there is yet so much more to discover, so much greater depths to explore. God is the primary source of truth. He is the creative Logos, who designed everything that exists. Jesus claimed for himself: “I am the Truth.” This Advent we long for a greater insight into the Truth, in a greater way than ever before.
We long for friendship and love. This is the highest good that alone can completely satisfy us. We are so designed, that we cannot survive without the experience of friendship and love. We know that this is the primary reason why God created us. He wants to enter into a relationship with us. He wants us to experience his love, and then to freely return that love. This is the basis of the two great Commandments: to love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Everyone is searching for this; many in the wrong places. Everyone wants to feel wanted, to belong and to share in the lives of others, to experience a sense of community. Marriage and family life are the most obvious expressions of love and friendship, but even these cannot fully satisfy the human heart. Every person is drawn more and more to the love of God, who is the source of all love. This is why God calls some people to bypass marriage and family, and to come directly to him with an undivided heart.
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God. This Advent we long to experience the love of God in a greater way than ever before. Our prayer life is the way we foster our relationship with God.
While we yearn for God during this Advent Season, we also realize that we live here on Earth. We are not in heaven. We must act accordingly. While we experience these deep seated longings, we know that they cannot be fully satisfied here and now. This world will always leave us lacking something, feeling unsatisfied. Our true home is elsewhere. We must work with that.
Here below, we must contend with a fallen human nature, a reality that expresses itself all too clearly in forced immigration from Syria, in religious persecution throughout the Middle East, and in the spread of terrorism. We are on Earth, not in Heaven. These are realities that we must contend with. There are trials to be endured, vices to let go of, virtues to grow into, and a cross to embrace. That too is part of the work of Advent.
St. Paul encourages us in the second reading: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his Saints.