Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, December 4, 2019
At this time of year, you may frequently find yourself asking the question, “Why?” Perhaps yours might even feel more like, “WHHHYYYY?????” Why did that class that seemed so reasonable in August turn out to require a 20-page paper? Why did those equations that made so much sense on the whiteboard in class suddenly become unrecognizable while sitting in the study lounge? Approaching exams in years past, I sometimes even asked God “why” in a prayer, such as, “Why, God, did anyone think Financial Accounting was a good idea?”
So while you’re focused on wrapping up the semester, getting enough sleep, finding something to wear that looks reasonably clean and shopping for your people back home who all want items from the bookstore, you may wonder why: why am I about to encourage you to step back and notice that we’ve begun the season of Advent?
The reason is this: the four weeks of Advent remind us that, even though we can’t always answer the “why” questions, big or small, we wait in hope for the coming of Him who will bring clarity to the biggest and smallest questions of our lives.
Some of the greatest figures of the Bible ask “Why?” and it’s no accident that we hear from them during Advent. In this Sunday’s gospel, for example, we meet John the Baptist. Even though no one would have been able to describe why they found him so compelling (“He eats locusts! He wanders the desert! He calls people vipers!”), nonetheless we hear that people walked for miles and miles to follow him and be baptized. And what does he tell them? Do the very best you can right now, says John. Get ready, prepare, clean up your act as best you can, but never forget that the One coming after me will make sense of it all.
The Sundays of Advent contain prophesies of Jesus Christ — they get at both the waiting and the “why.” On the third Sunday, the prophet Isaiah tells the people that even in the midst of exile and suffering, they could wait in hope. Why? Because the One to come would make the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap and the mute speak. In the fourth Sunday’s gospel, Joseph learns that his pregnant wife Mary “will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Fr. Dan Groody says that of all the great migrations that have ever taken place, the greatest of all happened when Jesus, the very image of God’s perfect love, migrated to the far and distant land of our sinfulness and brokenness. And again, we might ask, “Why?” Because God wants our eternal companionship and life with him. Because such love can reassure us when nothing else makes sense. Because the example of Jesus, for whom we wait during Advent, invites us to answer all our questions through our wholehearted attempts to follow him.
During these busy and stressful days, I invite you to make time to be aware of God’s presence all around you. Notice that we await the coming of Christ into the world. Allow all your questions to sit within the love that crossed all boundaries to enter into each and every heart, including yours.
As John the Baptist might tell you, do the very best you can right now. Get ready, prepare, clean up your act as best you can, but never forget that in Advent, we are made aware of the One who wants to help us make sense of it all.
Fr. Pete McCormick
director, Campus Ministry