Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Reflection (In the Driveway)

The girls played in the yard in their bathing suits again today. They took turns with the garden hose, "washing" Daddy's car - and each other - while I sat in the shade on the driveway with a shirtless baby on my lap who was trying to read my book instead of me, and me admiring the gummy-with-leftover-pancake-syrup creases in his neck.

This time of year, we Floridians reap the rewards of enduring the long hot summer. Outside, it's balmy. It's perfect. Buffered by distance, noises float to you over the air - lawnmowers, traffic, a yapping dog - that almost sound like music. You can watch the edges of the shade shifting in the breeze and with a great happy calm in your heart, drift right off to sleep...if you aren't supervising children.

As soon as my baby pattered off to chase his sisters, I picked up my book again, Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI.) It's a rich text; I can only read a little at a time. "Now is the time of joy," he writes. Why is this the time of joy? Because the Kingdom of God has been proclaimed to us. What is the Kingdom of God? It is God's kingship, the active reality of his reign over nature and history. It is in the midst of us. It is the very person of Christ. I leaned back and thought about this, while the yellow palm clusters waved against the sky.

It is extraordinary - the hiddeness of God's Dominion. "Surely you are a God who hides himself," the psalmist says. Like a seed, he has planted his Kingdom in our midst; it takes root in darkness and sprouts secretly. The story of mankind from God's perspective is the growth of this seed. The events of our history books are immaterial; they record the rise and fall of worldly kingdoms. God's record is of the fact of his kingship in our world. His is an entire domain that can only be seen by those who desire to enter it - and the story of this domain is the whole point of the history of man, a point that is completely missed in the glare of worldly power. We can impugn God, I suppose, for making himself invisible, but by doing so, he has ensured that the only way to him is by the mechanism of Love. (Ratzinger, p. 37) By those who seek him, he can be found. But there is no one who is not free to seek something else instead.

Sitting in the driveway, I thought for the first time that I might be in this Kingdom now, by faith, through His body and blood, and that perhaps it is beside the point whether I live or die, whether America rises or falls, or in what way I suffer. Because suffering, dying, living, America rising, America falling, we his people are already under the rule of another reality. Our swords have been beaten into plowshares. The wolf and lamb are lying down together. On all this holy mountain, there is no harming or destroying. This is not yet a thing that you can touch with your hands. But it is real. As the Holy Father says, this means that no matter what terrible things may happen to us, there is nothing terrible that can happen to us. On a day like today, it wasn't even hard for me to believe it.

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