The First Sunday of Advent, Ma’s famous behavior list went up on the kitchen wall in the Dirkx house. It was hung high on the wall. I don’t know if it was so we could not reach it, or because visitors could see, or both, but definitely we were told that Santa Claus would be checking it on Christmas Eve. Three names appeared at the top of the list, mine and that of my two sisters Mary and Pat. Every time we did something wrong an “X” would appear under our name. Any good deed would not remove an “X.” It was permanent. This is probably why my mother used ink—it was indeed permanent. My mother was into behavioral psychology long before it became popular. As I reflect back upon the experience, my mother was teaching us to internalize good behavior out of love. To this day, the three of us have remained very close to each other.
The largest section of books in any bookstore is on romance. Love is very important to us human beings. Without love, we could never come to the fullness of our potential. The love Jesus reveals to us is not found in romance novels, but in the holy love that comes from God, the Father. We have seen this love in the past, anticipate its fullness in the future, and are immersed in it in the present moment. It is in this love that Jesus found His identity as a human person. Let me repeat this: Jesus found his identity as a person in the love of God the Father. In fact, the first temptation of Jesus is all about where He was going to find His identity—in how He could misuse His power or live in the love of God the Father. Jesus told the devil, “Scripture has it, ‘Not on bread alone is man to live but on every utterance that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).” If Jesus found His human identity in God’s love, how much more must we find our identity in God’s love? The truth of who we are is only found in God the Father’s love for us.
Our Advent theme for this Sunday is “Be Watchful.” I would like to propose to you a different kind of watchfulness—an inner watchfulness. There is a place within each one of us where only God can dwell. Call it the inner room, or the inner self, or the soul, it is the part of who we are where we can find both God and our true selves. Jesus invites us, this Advent Season, to go to our inner room. We will find it by following our heart. Where our heart is, there we will find our identity as a human person. The inner watchfulness will reveal to us the most profound truth of who we are—the Beloved of God. You will know if your identity is rooted in God’s love, because you will hear the silent voice of God say, “This is my Beloved Son or this is my Beloved Daughter in whom I am well pleased.” The truth of who we are is rooted in God’s love for us. This inner attentiveness is vital to Christian living, to discipleship. It is this inner watchfulness that keeps us focused—keeps us on the right path. It is the standard by which we decide what is truly beneficial to living. It is the Lord who beckons us to our inner self and to discover ourselves in God’s love. If every human being could live with this awareness, imagine how different the world would be. If we can live in this awareness, then others can too.
May the following question be a guide this Advent. Do I find myself living on the surface of life? Surface-living means we are far from the inner place where God dwells. Go to that place where only you can go and there find God’s love. Be always watchful that nothing but God’s love defines who you are as a human person. Happy Advent!
Sincerely in Christ,