This Advent I am reading the little booklet from Liturgical Press entitled “Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas“ by Jay Cormier. The first Sunday of Advent offers a thought-provoking reflection on one’s final “standing before the Son of Man.” It spurred reflection on the moments of life before death where we stand before him already in a veiled fashion.
If humanity is truly created in the image and likeness of God, then we stand before the Son of Man, God, in a veiled way every time we stand before one another. Our encounters with each other are litmus tests of our present ability to one day stand before him. It’s not hard to think of persons we accept and love without much effort of the heart, but what of those we reject or find troublesome. The human experience offers a whole litany of persons we as individuals and society struggle at times to accept.
We could think of intimate family, spouse or friends who try our patience. We could think of our elderly parent or grandparent who seems to push all the right buttons or those who simply bother us. Our society wrestles with the Son of Man in the immigrant, the unborn, the rich or poor, the person with Down syndrome, the criminal or the holy. The full image of the Son of Man remains on each, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.” If we cannot stand before them now with love, then how shall we stand before Christ on the last day who says that he and they are one?
Even the mirror offers a challenge for us. We are called to love ourselves because God loves us and sees in us incredible dignity and value. Yet we know our weaknesses, frailties, age, mistakes and imperfections very well and can find it very hard to stand with love before our own image behind which is the Son of Man.
The sacraments too are an encounter of standing before the Son of Man. The Eucharist, both at Mass and reserved in the tabernacle, is fully him. The reality of such self-offering love that comes to us in each eucharistic experience can be quite unsettling in its awesomeness. What is our response to this love? Can we stand to love him similarly in return? The sacrament of penance too is a standing before the Son of Man, who is rich in mercy for us. It is very humbling to be in need of such forgiveness and strength. There are so many preparations for our final standing at the end of life. Our legs grow strong here with his help. He in the end will make us blameless and allow us to stand before him, unafraid and unashamed, with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and Magi.
Questions for reflection
1. Where is it difficult to see him?
2. How I can get to know him better this Advent?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish and St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay.