The National Catholic Review
Snow has fallen this past week throughout Minnesota and more will be falling tonight, and tomorrow and the next day. In Minnesota, we are not dashing through the snow - this is appropriate for one horse open sleighs, but not most cars. We are, however, dashing through Advent, or at least I am. One of the strange things about being an academic is that one perpetually keeps the same schedule that a 1st grader does, and the semester ends deep into Advent. First graders tend to keep their eyes on the prize -Santa Claus is coming to town and the Baby Jesus too - as they prepare for Christmas, but final papers, final exams and grading can weigh professors and students down instead of focusing one’s mind and spirit in preparation for the coming of Christ. This year the far greater burden of difficult economic times has weighed down numerous people the world over, but even when there are not acknowledged "crisis" times, there are numerous suffering people in our own towns and the world over. Advent can pass us by in a blur, whether our burdens are nuisances or truly heavy. Yet, Paul tells us that the coming of Christ was something that was awaited, "kept secret" even, for "long ages," in Romans 16:25-27. This is an interesting passage that we are called to meditate upon in the Advent season, both literarily - it comes after all in the closing of the Epistle to the Romans, not the central theological sections of this profound letter - and theologically. Why theologically? Paul asks us to consider that Jesus is the one who was promised long ago, whose coming was "the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages." The words themselves call out for us to slow down, to savor them, to reflect on them. Do I take the coming of Jesus for granted? Do I thank God that I was born after his revelation was made known, so that I might come to know him in this life, in each day? In the waiting of Advent do I keep my eyes on the true prize, with wonder, or do I move on to the mundane, which, after all, must be done and after all somebody has to do it and...? For me this is the question for reflection this Advent: do I truly believe Jesus was the one "kept secret for long ages" or am I only going through the spiritual motions? Paul challenges us with his closing words, powerfully hidden themselves at the end of a long letter, to consider how graced our existence is since Christ came. For where was Jesus hidden before being revealed? He is "now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ." I reflected on this for some time, that Jesus was "now manifested through the prophetic writings," because the prophetic writings were themselves revealed centuries before the coming of Christ. People wondered and yearned for the savior to come, not knowing when he would, but we have been granted the ability to be born and live in his light. He has now been "made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith." We need in the midst of our work to pay attention to the one revealed, to the one who was long hidden, instead of losing him again in the bustle of an Advent that hides more than reveals. John W. Martens