Spirituality of the Readings
Receiving and Giving
God made planets and black holes and galaxy clusters and who knows what else and then bestowed the God-self upon every microscopic atom of this exhaustive creation. What a sharing.
Surely this would have been enough.
But the planets and asteroids were not able to know they were receiving God. They were unable to willingly love God in return for this creation. Their manner of reception was only their rough, craggy existence. They were (are) able to be only exactly what they were (are).
So God made a new beginning. God thought up a miraculously intricate trail by which something called life could come about. He chose (at least) a diminutive blue planet which circulated insignificantly around a very small star. This was what would later be understood—millions of years later—as residing in the Milky Way.
God then caused life to eke its way out of the seas onto the shore of this planet. Into amoebae, trees, chimps, underwater creatures, and more. Life chose as its home the highest mountains, the coldest specks of ice, the hottest flaming deserts, and even these original depths of oceans. As a mother loves her children, God loved this abundant “life.”
God enwrapped them in love, in which they basked—but did not know it. If you had taken one look at the dinosaurs and apes and fishes and birds, you would have seen that such a miraculous creation
would have been enough.
But still there was room. God’s overflowing love discovered more space within all this. So God scooped out “openness” in various living creatures. These now could receive knowingly the affectionate love God was bestowing upon them, and, if they chose, could begin to give love back to God!
As a result, the human race—slowly, cumbrously inched into being. Don’t ask me the number of Cro-Magnon species that came about, or how hunting turned into farming and cooking, how weaving and building and fences and fire came onto the scene. They did. And God took time to deepen out the spiritual hollow inside these newly fashioned humans in which they could, even in fear and distraction, actually receive God’s love—not passively like a stone in the sun, but actively and knowingly, welcoming into themselves the beautiful gratuity of God’s life, love and presence.
You know the rest. We are those human beings. Each of us is able to “open” in this way, each standing at the apex of such a long history of God's Spirit.
So, Advent is the treasured time to ask quietly, humbly, how we too can love in return. Will we take time to treasure this depth within ourselves? Will we let it thrive?
It would mean bringing the virtue called “patience” to bear on our nervous, often inconvenient, life. It would mean letting God’s presence be enough for us. It might even signify finding a new way of life. At a local level, couldn’t it mean celebrating at Mass in a new way, a way of patient listening and receiving instead of holding ready our watches so we can time the homily.
And that would be enough, would it not?
Maybe, but suppose that God’s tender love wanted to make its way out of the church and into the world? Wouldn’t that be a birth of the child Jesus in our lives? We would carry the love placed in our hearts out to families, friends, neighbors—whether poor or rich—because of God’s love.
And that would be enough.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University