Over Thanksgiving, I had the chance to visit my sister and her family, including my three little nieces. Shortly after I arrived, Cory and Raegan, who are 4 and 2 respectively, started asking me if I wanted to play hide and go seek with them.
So like any good uncle, I said “ABSOLUTELY I DO.”
And so the game began. I closed my eyes. The countdown kicked off. My nieces ran off excitedly to go hide. And then I announced loud and clear:
“Ready or not, here I come!”
I opened my eyes, and at that precise moment I learned…that my nieces are terrible at this game.
I mean… they are SO BAD at hiding… in the cutest way possible.
Because when I turned around, I literally saw them immediately… I mean, they were even sort of sticking their heads out from behind the couch they both were barely trying to crouch behind. It was hilarious.
But like any good uncle should do, I proceeded to pretend not to see them…searching high and low. Where could they possibly be???…Until finally, I came! And I found them. And my nieces erupted in giggles.
What struck me was this:
They were so filled with joy to be found. They were so ready, so excited, and so happy when I finally unearthed their well-guarded “hiding” spot.
Turns out, they WANTED to be found all along…
Maybe that’s the entire point of Advent. Maybe that’s the reason for this season of watching and waiting for Jesus to finally come:
Perhaps we are all supposed to become more like my nieces: SO excited and SO joyful just to be found by the God who loves us.
Throughout the entire Bible, God has spoken very clearly to His people: “READY OR NOT… HERE I COME.”
He promised to come 2,000 years ago in a manger. He promised to come again at the end of the world, riding on the clouds of Heaven. He also promised to come each and every day in the present moment… to “be with us always, even to the end of the age.”
He’s right over there in the Tabernacle. He’s about to come right here on this altar. He’s about to come into your MOUTH in the Eucharist…
And yet in a hundred million ways, we’re still all SO dang busy trying to hide from Him!!!! We’re still cowering behind the bushes, just like Adam and Eve once did in that Garden so long ago. Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah said: “You have hidden your face from us, God” …but really, we’re the ones doing most of the hiding!
And guess what… we’re terrible at playing hide-and-go-seek with God.
I mean, we’re SO BAD at this game!
Because God sees our hiding spot immediately.
He instantly recognizes where we’re trying to hide. He knows our sins. Our patterns. Our habits. The masks we hold up. He sees all our “polluted rags,” as the prophet Isaiah described our moral state. He knows that we’ve all “become like withered leaves”…and that “our guilt carries us away like the wind.” God sees all of this at a glance…
And while we might think we’re pretty well hidden, we absolutely are not.
But here’s the good news of Advent:
Jesus is coming. He’s on His way to come find us…
The question is: Do we want to be found? Are we perhaps afraid of what Jesus might find when He discovers our hiding place? Do we, at least in some corner of our hearts, dread His coming???
Or… can we become more like my little nieces, who — when they’re finally found by the One who loves them — erupt in joyful giggles? Are we relieved when we see Him coming? Do we trust God enough to let Him find us???
“Ready or not, here He comes!”
You know, that phrase “Jesus is coming” reminds me of one of my all-time favorite moments in the Lord of the Rings…
When, in the middle of the final battle, when everything seemed lost… one of the little hobbits looks up into the sky and starts crying out in joy:
“THE EAGLES ARE COMING!” — and then the great big eagles swoop down out of nowhere and save the day.
That scene, in a way, perfectly captures what I’m trying to communicate here. That relief — that wonder — that overflowing joy knowing that help is on the way. That we are not alone. That we’ve been found, and everything is about to change.
JRR Tolkien even came up with his own word to describe this experience. He called it a Eucatastrophe. It literally means “the good disaster.” Tolkien coined this term for that pivotal moment in a story when there’s a sudden change of fates for the better. A resolution. A happy ending.
For a eucatastrophe to really mean something… for the full weight of it to be felt… it can only happen at that precise moment when things couldn’t possibly look any worse. When the night couldn’t be any darker, and the situation couldn’t be any more desperate… It’s only at THAT precise, bleak, apparently hopeless point in the story when EVERYTHING changes. When all of a sudden, against all odds… the victory is suddenly secured, and something new — something amazing — something piercingly GOOD breaks in, and the tide turns. The momentum swings…
This is what the Incarnation of Jesus Christ did for us and for all of humanity. This is the mystery we meditate on during this holy season of Advent:
God sent His Son to dwell among us and take on our lowly flesh… to hide His Divinity within the form of a weak little baby: O Come, O Come Emmanuel!
What a beautiful Eucatastrophe the Incarnation is!!! What a GOOD DISASTER…
Think about it: The world was darkened by sin. Heaven was closed to us. The devil held us captive to sin. And all of humanity was weary and heavy-burdened by thousands of years of hopelessness… but as Fr. John Riccardo likes to say: “God wanted His world back.”
And so… at that lowest point, at the darkest hour, a new message broke forth: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing; …For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.”
To put this message into Lord of the Rings terminology: THE EAGLES ARE COMING…
JESUS IS COMING, y’all. He already came once to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. But He’s coming into the world again… next stop: This altar. But at the end of time… The Son of Man will come. “You do not know when that time will be.”
So don’t you dare get caught sleeping! Imagine taking a nap at the most important moment of history — the return of Jesus? Imagine being in a state of mortal sin when the world begins to melt away and the King of the Universe finally comes! What a shame! What a waste!
Don’t do that! Get yourself to confession this Advent. The Church asks us to go at least once a year. Make sure that happens. There are lots of penance services on the calendar. We owe to Jesus and to ourselves:
Be ready! Be alert! — WATCH. Your salvation is near!
You’re about to be found by God!
“Ready or not, here He comes!”