God Is Near
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador

“Then He told them a parable: 'Behold the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see this things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 'Be on guard' so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.'"

Luke 21: 29-36

Teresa of Avila. That great 16th c mystic once wrote that "The common mistake that we commit is to assume that God is not near us and we imagine him to be far away- so far that we need to go to heaven in order to find him." In the Gospel today, Jesus says, "The Kingdom of God is near." God is not far, but near. Teresa of Avila once said that God is so near as he is in the centro del alma, in the center of the human soul.  The difficulty is that people are not aware of the nearness of God.  People are not attuned to the presence and nearness of God in their lives.  Recently, I was reading a
letter between two women (now candidates for sainthood) who were friends- Dorothy Day and Catherine de Hueck Doherty. Both really took seriously the call of Jesus to follow him and live out the Gospels not only through a vigorous prayer life, but also in service of the poor. In one of the letters, Catherine lamented that the majority of people in the Church seems to be either unaware, unconscious or in a state of spiritual sleep as to their eternal destiny in Christ.

Many live their lives asleep to the presence and nearness of God in them and that they need to be awakened. The Church is dormant, she says, and it needs to be shaken up to awaken it to the beauty of God's presence living in it. We are all beautiful creatures of God in so far as God has decided to make a habitation right in the center of our souls, Teresa said. The Kingdom of heaven is nowhere but in our hearts. We need not wait for death for us to enter the Kingdom of heaven.  Christ dwells already in us. But as the Gospel today says, there are just so many things that distract us from the awareness of the presence and nearness of Christ.

Each one of us has something in our lives that takes our attention off from that presence and nearness. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us today: "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness and worries of life."  The things that distract us from the presence and nearness of God is our preoccupation with things in life that we think would make us happy so that we pursue these things and such pursuit tend to push God aside from our consciousness.  Like Catherine Doherty, one of the sad things I find among many Christians is how shallow or superficial their knowledge and level of relationship is with God. That is because they have not cultivated a loving friendship with God. Many attain only to a certain elementary knowledge of God and they seem to have stopped growing.  They remain asleep to the true and living God.

God in fact invites us to a deeper relationship with him.  He is always wanting to be born anew in our hearts.  If there is a theme about Advent, it is about being awakened to the birth of God in our lives.  We prepare ourselves consciously for the birth of God in our lives by paying attention to him, and that means as often as possible, we elevate ourselves- our souls and hearts- to him in prayer.  Prayer is the manger of God by which Christ is born in us.  By prayer, we are awakened to the presence and nearness of Christ.

This Advent, try to be more intentional by having more time for prayer. Take the time to reflect on the presence and nearness of God in your hearts who is forever being born in you.

 

© 2016 Noel E. Bordador

Noel Bordador is a queer Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.


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