We want one grace above all during Advent, Pope Francis says, and that is the grace of finding Jesus. But in order to find him, there are certain attitudes that will prepare our hearts.
The Pope offered this reflection during his homily at morning Mass today in the Casa Santa Marta, Vatican Radio reported, as he emphasized that the Christian faith is not a theory or set of beliefs but an encounter with Jesus.
He noted that in the liturgies of Advent, we see many encounters with Jesus: with His Mother in the womb, with Saint John the Baptist, with the Shepherds, with the Magi. All this, he said, shows us that Advent is “a time for journeying and going forth to meet the Lord, that is, a time to not stand still.”
“What are the attitudes that I must have in order to encounter the Lord?,” the Pope asked. How “must I prepare my heart for the encounter with the Lord?”
He said there are three attitudes necessary: “In the prayer at the beginning of the Mass, the Liturgy points out three attitudes: being vigilant in prayer, industrious in charity, and exultant in praise. That is, I must pray, with vigilance. I must be hardworking in charity – fraternal charity, not only giving alms, no, but being tolerant of the people who annoy me, being tolerant at home of the children when they make too much noise; or of the husband or wife when they are difficult; or the mother-in-law… I don’t know… but tolerant: tolerant… charity, always, but hard-working. And also the joy of praising the Lord: ‘Exulting in joy.’ That is how we must live this journey, this desire to encounter the Lord. To encounter Him in a good way. Not standing still. And we will encounter the Lord.”
The Holy Father said that the Lord too, “does not stand still,” referring to him, as he often has, as a “Lord or surprises.”
“I am on a journey to encounter Him, and He is on a journey to encounter me, and when we meet one another we see that the great surprise is that He was seeking me before I began to seek Him,” the Pope reflected.
Francis said that this “is the great surprise of the encounter with the Lord: He sought us first. He is always first. He makes His journey in order to find us.”
One step; 10 steps
“The Lord always goes beyond, goes first,” the Pope assured. “We take one step and He takes 10. Always. The abundance of grace, of His love, of His tenderness that never tires of seeking us. Even, at times, with small things: We think that encountering the Lord would be something magnificent, like that man of Syria, Naaman, who was a leper. And it’s not simple … And he too had a great surprise at God’s way of acting. Our God is the God of surprises, the God that is seeking us, is awaiting us, and asks of us only the little step of good will.”
We must have the “desire to encounter Him,” the Pope continued. And then He “helps us.” The Lord, he said, “will accompany us during our life. Although many times, perhaps, we seem to be far from Him, He waits for us like the father of the prodigal son.”
“Often times,” he added, “He sees that we want to draw close, and He comes out to meet us. It is the encounter with the Lord: This is the important thing! The encounter.” Pope Francis said he is always struck by something Pope Benedict said, “that the faith is not a theory, a philosophy, an idea; it is an encounter. An encounter with Jesus.”
If, on the other hand, “one has not encountered His mercy,” it would be possible even to “recite the Creed from memory” without necessarily having faith: “The doctors of the Law knew everything, all the dogmas of that time, all the morals of that time, everything. They did not have faith, because their hearts were far from God.”
So, the Pope concluded, “this is the grace that we ask for today: ‘O God, our Father, raise up in us the desire to meet your Christ,’ with good works. To meet Jesus. And for this we remember the grace that we have asked in prayer, with vigilance in prayer, industriousness in charity, and exulting in praise. And so we will encounter the Lord and we will have a very beautiful surprise.”