Today I had a rare chance to attend Mass by myself. In his homily, Fr. Dominic (the younger) talked about the false expectations some Christians have that after conversion to Christ, life will be a rose garden where everything fits into an image of a perfect Catholic dreamworld, variously defined. But this, he said, is not what Christ promises. Christ in fact assures is that in this world we will have tribulation, and that the hope we have in Him is primarily an eschatological hope. In other words, as important as it is to build a civilization of love on earth, our hope is not in how "successfully" grace operates in our lives to change this world. Our hope always points us to our ultimate destiny in eternity.
We are within the last 24 hours of the liturgical year and Advent is right around the corner. I am really hungry for Advent this year. When I think about what Fr. Dominic preached about today, I hear what he means. We cannot replace the path Christ calls us to with a beautiful but fake religious picture that pleases us. We cannot be so hung up on our own desire to contribute, or control, that we start to imagine supposed fruits of our ministry in every beat of our neighbor's eyelashes or, conversely, get upset at the apparent lack of fruit. All of this is wood, hay and stubble that will be burnt in fire. We need to simply follow what is given, always asking for the grace to be as obedient as possible to God's every directive for our lives.
The kicker to me is that as we focus on our ultimate destiny, and live Advent this way, we are suddenly met by Him, our ultimate destiny, right here and right now. Bam. Emmanuel. This is the surprise that I hope I never live long enough to get over -- the Christmas Eve Surprise of meeting Christ as He is suddenly and powerfully present right before me. Faith, gift that it is, gives me the eyes to see that there He is: look, the Lamb of God! The kicker is that the eschaton is already here, and to see it, to behold Him, is to desire nothing else, for what else compares?
There are so many waves and layers of paradox in contemplating Advent and I need to be immersed again. Come, Lord Jesus. Maranatha!