If you’re at all like me, you make “to-do” lists. And if you’re like me, you enjoy crossing off things on the to-do list.
Today’s readings bring to the fore God’s to-do list, God priorities, for our world. They remind us of the spiritual dimension of this season of Advent, lest those aspects drift too far from our hearts during this season, which is often filled with as many challenges as blessings. The readings invite us to make an important to-do list for our spiritual well being and the well-being of our world.
In the Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples a pretty full to-do list as he sends them to preach the good news of the Reign of God. He tells them to cure those who are sick, cleanse lepers, drive out demons and even to raise the dead!
And you thought your Christmas to-do list was difficult!
But the secret is found in the last line of instruction Jesus gives “You’ve received without cost, now give without cost.”
The ability of the disciples to accomplish these extraordinary tasks while they preach the good news is not something that they achieve on their own. It is God’s gift.
It is God’s work; it is God’s “to do” list. And God doesn’t leave us to do everything ourselves.
What a helpful reminder for us as we conclude this first week of our Advent journey to Christmas!
We are reminded that Advent and Christmas are first and foremost not about us. As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But it is more than that. This liturgical season is there to remind us that Jesus is asking us to join with him in bringing about God’s Reign of justice and righteousness, of peace and joy. The fields need laborers – those who are able to respond in love to the call of Christ to be about the work of God’s Reign.
That work isn’t just the task of clergy – of deacons, priests, bishops or even popes! It is the task of all of us who are the Church – the community that acts in the name of Christ. That is something that Pope Francis has especially been reminding us of during this time of the global Synod. We all are the laborers who work – each in our own way – small or large – to help grow, cultivate and reap a harvest of goodness, justice, mercy, and peace. And yes, it is hard work for the times in which we live!
But we find a similar situation to our own in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. The people cry out because they need help in the midst of adversity. Even here the message comes through loud and clear – our Teacher is God who speaks to us – not from above to dominate or from in front to moralize, but from behind to guide – “Here is the path; walk in it; step this way.” The message of this season is found in the very word of the season – “Emmanuel,” – the Hebrew word which means “God is with us here, now!” Christ is guiding us if we will take the time to enter the silence of our hearts and listen so that we know what our own spiritual to-do list should be!
Let us pray that we will respond to God’s priorities to-do list for ourselves, our parishes, our dioceses, our national and global Church, and our world.
God give you peace!