Our Longing for Jesus

Recently I was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral praying before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. At one point, an older gentleman sat down at the opposite end of the pew. He was fidgeting a bit and a couple times leaned over in my direction. It quickly became apparent that he wanted to say something to me. Finally, he built up the courage and asked, “do you speak Spanish?” Unfortunately, I don’t so with regret I shook my head no. It was clear something was pressing on his heart because a few moments later he leaned over again and proceeded to ask, “do you know anyone who does?” I responded in the affirmative and watched as he reached into his bag and pulled out a little booklet. With great enthusiasm he said, “please give them this.” It was a devotional booklet about the Divino Niño – the Infant Jesus. I expected him to tell me of a Spanish speaker who needed help, but he simply couldn’t wait to share his great love for the baby Jesus.

 Advent is often referred to as the season of waiting. Most people think of the time before Christmas as a time of waiting in long lines to buy presents. Waiting to see how many times the movie It’s a Wonderful Life will be shown on TV. How easily we think of a child so longing for Christmas morning that he almost bursts out of his skin because he can’t wait for Santa Claus. We should have that same excitement for Christmas. Though, not because of the tale of jolly old St. Nick sliding down our fireplace with his bag of toys. Rather, our joy is rooted in the greatest gift we could ever be given – Jesus Incarnate. He is what we await. It’s a waiting, however, that isn’t idle but instead active. There’s a movement in our heart. A longing for this God-Man who comes to us not as an unapproachable, high-society aristocrat but as a humble, little child.

The Church helps us prepare in a profound way. There’s a notable “hush” at the beginning of mass as we omit the Gloria. All of the flowers have been removed from the sanctuary. The priest is now clothed in purple vestments. That purple has the ability to stir in our hearts a solemn somberness and excitement all at the same time. We know that during confession a priest wears a stole that’s purple in color because it symbolizes penance. The sacrament of reconciliation, like the seasons of advent and lent, aren’t indicated by purple so we can dwell on our sins, but rather to prepare our hearts for what comes from that act of repentance – greater union with Jesus.

I remember in college attending daily mass toward the end of advent. The priest celebrating mass during those days was not a regular at the parish. At the end of each mass he made a brief, almost passing comment after the final blessing. I’ll never forget how he said, “there’s only eight days left for you to go to confession before Christmas.” The mall across the street had a neon sign counting down the shopping days left until Christmas. Everyday at the end of mass this priest would count down the days with a little different perspective. He would then proceed down the center aisle and drape his purple chasuble over the back pew then enter into the confessional. You knew from his remarkable sincerity that this was the most significant preparation we could carry out during those days leading up to Christmas.

Our Lady, especially, is a great model for what it means to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. To make room in the depths of our being for our Savior and Lord. The liturgy recognizes the desire for Jesus to dwell within us, so much so that we often repeat the phrase, ComeLord Jesus!Which is usually followed up with, do not delay! or come quickly! There’s an urgency in our desire. Advent is a particular time for us to step out of the “ordinary” and allow Jesus to be further rooted in the depths of our being so that His love can grow within us.

Our longing for Jesus is so great that we take an entire day during Advent in order to rejoice in His coming. Gaudate Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, shifts from the somber tone of the season in order that we may receive a glimpse of what’s to come. On Gaudate (Latin for rejoice) Sunday, the priest is given the option to replace his somber purple with rose vestments. We see flowers placed back in the sanctuary. This day we hear St. Paul remind us, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again, Rejoice!”

The tone is changing. Perhaps because for as much as we long for Jesus, you can’t believe how much more He longs for us. He wants to be further rooted in our hearts, in the depths of our soul. If Jesus is the answer to every question of the human heart, as John Paul II declared, then with great hope and expectation let us joyfully proclaim, Come, Lord Jesus!

We have much to learn from that man in adoration with me. He has come to know the Babe of Bethlehem. He has had a tangible experience of Jesus and now lives in constant relationship with Him. He has encountered the love and mercy and glory of the Lamb of God in such a way that, like our Lady, he now longs to share that experience with others.