Almost Christmas: How Do You Respond?

Fr Jacob Arimpur, VC –

Once again we are in the Advent season and Christmas is just round the corner. There is one theme that stands out while meditating the Gospel passages which tell us about the birth of our Lord Jesus and that is – spiritual life requires haste. When we hear God’s Word, and when we encounter the Living God made man, we are to respond in haste. There is no time to waste. The Word has become flesh, so let us go to Him in haste.

St Joseph’s immediate response to God

We do not know much about St Joseph. He is silent in the Gospels, but his actions reveal a great deal about his personality. An angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream. The angel clarifies and explains Mary’s situation to Joseph and also invites Joseph to participate in God’s plan for the salvation of mankind as her husband. The particular passage in the Scripture does not use the word “haste” but it is clear that St Joseph responded immediately to God’s will. He did not wait to do these things; he awoke from the dream and took Mary to be his wife. He encountered God through the angel and responded quickly to God’s invitation.

Mary proceeds in haste

Mary is par excellence in how to respond to God’s call in our own lives. When angel Gabriel stood before her with the plan of God she immediately submits in obedience saying “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). After the Annunciation, Luke tells us, “Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Lk 1:39). Mary learns that her cousin is pregnant, and while she too is with child, she proceeds quickly to her cousin. This meeting is not coincidental. It is when St John the Baptist and Jesus Christ first meet. The Holy Spirit is present in this initial meeting and will manifest at our Lord’s Baptism.

Mary’s haste is an example to all of us. She says yes to God and then she immediately goes about doing His will. She goes to Elizabeth in charity and as she lives God’s will she enters deeper into communion and praise of Him. We are caught up in the Divine Life when we let God work through us and we cooperate in His plans. In responding quickly and in obedience to God’s will, we move deeper into the actions of God in our own lives and the world around us. When we take our time, or become anxious and restless, we can easily fall into inaction or sloth. It does not mean that we should abandon prudence. There is a difference between intentionally putting God off and prudence.

Holiness is not something we can keep putting off. God is calling us now. The path to sainthood is arduous and it cannot be put off until tomorrow. We must be attentive and respond in “haste” when He calls us, whether it is within our vocation or in our secular roles.

The Shepherds respond in haste to the Saviour

The first two chapters of Luke are filled with the actions of people responding to God’s calling. Some do it well and others are slow to respond. Zechariah is struck silent until the birth of St John the Baptist because he questions God and does not respond quickly in trust and obedience. Mary’s question is pragmatic and she responds quickly to God in her fiat. Later in Luke, an angel of the Lord appears to  the shepherds in the fields at night. Now the shepherds hear of God’s working from the angel and they go in haste to see the Saviour. There is no waiting. The response is immediate. Once God has broken into our lives and we have a radical encounter with Him, we are to proceed quickly on the path. This immediacy is the response God is asking from each one of us. St Joseph gets up and immediately takes Mary as his wife. Mary gives her fiat and then goes about God’s work through the Visitation. The shepherds hear of the coming of the Saviour and respond in haste. God calls each one of us to lead our families to Heaven, to evangelize, receive the Sacraments frequently, serve the poor, sick, homeless, needy, and unwanted, and to deepen our prayer lives. He is calling us to become saints at this very moment.

Do we respond in haste in our own lives?

Our response to God cannot be one of indifference, apathy, or sloth. He cannot fully work in our lives if we are not open to His call at all times and if we are not willing to respond quickly. The world is in need of a Saviour – the very Saviour lying in the manger – and we are called to share Him with the world today.  This begins in our families, our parish communities, and our cities. We must proceed in haste to frequent prayer. Our day should begin and be filled with the urgency we see in Mary, St Joseph, and the shepherds. The Mass should enliven our faith. We should go in haste to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and then go out into the world in order to bring others to Christ. This is our mission. This is not something that can be accomplished by the slothful, the indifferent, or the apathetic. It must be done with great charity, urgency, and haste. This Christmas, let us meditate on our need for haste in responding to God.

(Thanks to Divine Voice Magazine for allowing us to use this article from their December 2017 issue. Used with permission)