John was able to point out Christ at the Jordan, in a moment of fulfillment, which gave meaning to his whole life. John also had to witness to Christ in prison, in face of death, in failure....So too, we may at times be able to show the world Christ in moments when all can clearly discern in history, some confirmation of the Christian message. But the fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that His plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to His will.
Our Advent is the celebration of this hope. What is uncertain is not the ‘coming’ of Christ but our own reception of Him, our own response to Him, our own readiness and capacity to ‘go forth to meet Him’. We must be willing to see Him and acclaim Him, as John did, even at the very moment when our whole life’s work and all its meaning seem to collapse. Indeed, more formidable still, the Church herself may perhaps be called upon some day to point out the Victorious Redeemer and King of Ages amid the collapse of all that has been laboriously built up by the devotion of centuries and cultures that sincerely intended to be Christian.
Photograph by Father Emmanuel. Lines by Thomas Merton.