Advent-ually Week 1: Longing for Love

Advent-ually Week 1: Longing for Love

November 28 – Advent-ually Week 1
Longing for Love

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of the new liturgical year.  The Advent season includes the four Sundays that precede Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. Today we also begin a new homily series called Adventually.

 Adventually is a play on the word eventually. We call it Adventually because during this Advent we want to grow in our relationship with Jesus and others so that we might eventually have the best Christmas ever.

Today’s Gospel is taken from the last chapter of the Gospel of Luke before the passion narrative in which Jesus is teaching in the Temple. We hear Jesus speak to his disciples about the need for vigilance and prayer as they wait for the coming of the Son of Man in glory. This passage marks the conclusion of a lengthy dialogue in which Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem,
warns about the persecution and tribulations to follow, and identifies the signs that will signal the coming of the Son of Man in glory.

The people in Jesus time felt forgotten. They were being occupied by the Romans, who were taxing the Jews heavily and confiscating all that they owned. It would have been easy to be a Jew in that day and to feel lost and forgotten. To believe that the Messiah would never come to set them, the captives, free as the Old Testament had promised. To feel unloved and unknown.

As we go through life, we learn various ways of communicating and getting the attention of others.
As a baby, we cry when we need something. As a young child, we learn to talk and may also learn to throw tantrums. As we go through middle school and high school, we may get involved in activities with people we want to get to know: the same classes, the same activities, the same sports.
As adults, we do very similar things but we are more adept at making friends with people who enjoy what we do whether it is sports, or exercise, or crafting, or whatever you may be interested in. If we reflect on our need for communication and desire for attention, it can point to a deeper desire we have:
a desire for connection with other people, a desire to be recognized by those around us, a desire to be valued, and, ultimately, a more fundamental desire and longing for love. It is natural for us to want to receive love from others, to know that we belong and others care for us. In fact, everything we experience can be linked to this desire in some way.

It is natural to experience a desire to be loved by others because we are created in the image of God, who is love. This desire — to have relationships with other people where we are seen, known, and loved — is built into our human nature. When sin entered the world, though, our relationships with one another became complicated and hurtful because our relationship with God — who is the source of all love — became severed. Rather than knowing we are seen, known, and loved, it may be more likely that many of us now feel unseen, unknown, and unloved. We experience being lonely together. At times we feel as if God does not hear us or see us.

However, God, knowing our desire for love and the brokenness caused by our sin, had a plan to restore our relationship with Him and, in turn, with one another. He made sure we could experience His love for us in a way we understand. Jesus became one of us so we can experience perfect divine love in a human way. Everything Jesus did — the way He spoke, the people He went to, the work He did, the suffering He experienced — made God’s love tangible for us. Jesus sees us, knows us, and loves us.
Jesus gave His life to redeem all of humanity, even those of us — namely, you and I — who were not living during the time Jesus lived. Jesus does not just see, know, and love us collectively, though. He loves each of us, individually. We know this because of numerous accounts that show us how Jesus encountered each individual person during His active ministry.

Jesus sees us, loves us, and invites us to spend time with Him. Just like those He encountered in Scripture, we do not have to do anything or be perfect to be loved by Jesus. We cannot earn Jesus’ love,
it is freely given. He meets us as we are. He sees our strengths, weaknesses, what makes us laugh, and what hurts us. He knows all of our desires, dreams, hopes, and disappointments. Just like the rich young man in the Gospel of Mark, He looks at each of you and loves you.

We experience Jesus’ love in many different ways. We can experience it in the sacraments and as we learn more about our faith. We can experience it in our relationships with one another. We can also experience it in the messiness of our lives when we make mistakes, receive forgiveness, and are given opportunities to grow. All of this, though, is in the context of an invitation that Jesus extends to each of us. Jesus invites each of us to eternal beatitude through a life of holiness, which the Church calls our universal vocation. Beatitude is the word we use to talk about the happiness we will experience in eternity with God, when sin no longer wounds our ability to love and be loved by God and one another.
We are more able to live out our vocation.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “vocation?” The word vocation comes from the latin word vocare, which means, “to call.” So broadly speaking, a vocation is a call from God. More often than not, we use the word vocation to refer to traditionally recognized states in life such as marriage, religious life, or the priesthood and diaconate. In secular circles, we use vocation to talk about the particular jobs people have, such as being a mechanic, educator, doctor, professional athlete, etc.

All of the above are tied in varying ways to our universal vocation: a call to eternal beatitude through a life of holiness, which is the life of love Jesus invites us to live as His disciples. Love, as we have discussed, is a basic desire of every human heart, but it is also the vocation of every Christian. Jesus invites us to be His disciples, those who follow Him and live the way of life He teaches. Jesus teaches us that living a life of love is not just about being seen, known, and loved but also seeing, knowing, and loving others. 

Discipleship is an advanced course in what love is; it is a supernatural way of living life that is made possible to us through the grace of God. It is natural for us to desire love and give love to those we like. Being a disciple of Jesus takes it a step further. Discipleship purifies our desire to be loved, teaches us that loving is willing the good of another person, and asks that we extend love to our enemies. Jesus moves us from love as simply an affection to a selflessness that is expressed through our actions.

Discipleship is a vocation because it is an invitation to a way of life. “Becoming a disciple means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with His way of life”. Our universal vocation is the “first vocation of the Christian,” which is discipleship (or following Jesus).
Every person has this vocation, which is why we call it “universal.” Our personal vocation is the unique form that discipleship takes in our individual lives.

Living our vocation to love through discipleship is a life of growth, identity, and adventure, and the invitation excludes no one. So, rather than being lonely together, let us accept this invitation to be seen, known, and loved, so that we can, in turn, see, know, and love those around us.