I would like to address two concepts based on scripture readings that are part of the traditional bible passages for Advent.
The first is from the third chapter of the book of the prophet Malachi, a chapter in which Malachi hears God say, “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me (Malachi 3:1).”
The messenger for God in Malachi is someone who is a purifier, who cleanses things, who refines them into purity like perfect gold or silver. In other words, all stains are removed.
This passage bears an obvious connection to the third chapter in the gospel of St. Matthew, where the messenger John the Baptist is described. This concept of cleansing and purifying is again addressed as John the Baptist tells of the one coming, who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
John tells the Pharisees and Sadducees that they shouldn’t come to be baptized unless their hearts are really in it. He tells them to make their words match their actions. They have to produce good fruit as evidence that they really want to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.
This one who will baptize us uses a winnowing fan to cleanse.
What does this say to us? It means that we — our monastic community and every Christian — must not speak of God’s presence. Unless, we use our hearts, our minds and our actions to bring that reality into being here and now, that baptized reality of the kingdom of God.
Each day we, as a community of Benedictine sisters, try to live God’s truthfulness and justice in the way we treat the earth and the way we treat each other. We thank God each day for his abundant mercy.
Most of all, we cry out with one voice glorifying God several times a day in our liturgy. We try to encourage one another with scripture. Thus, we give each other hope. We try to think in harmony with one another, a harmony that is based foremost on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is in this way that we are able, with the help of God, to create a community that deals justly with one another, where differences are not just tolerated but work to enrich each other. Most of the time we do pretty well, even amidst the bad days. We try to enact the kingdom of God because we have been baptized by the Lord.
There is a word for this, the word “numinous.” It means, “filled with a sense of the presence of divinity.” One might say that all Christians should try to live an embodiment of the divinity already present among us. Wherever we are, we are to try to become a place where the mysterious presence of the divinity can be found by how we live.
Of course, every one of us does fall short, yet this is what we want to be. Just as we ask each of the sisters who are members of our community, we invite every one of you reading this to live in this numinous reality. Be influenced, be changed, be vulnerable, and we will work each day to do the same so that God may be found.
And that brings me to my second point. The gospel tells of this man, John the Baptist, who seems to be totally focused on preparing the way of the Lord. There is a total single-mindedness on his part. As believers in the message that John announced, we have a single purpose that we are asked to live and to show to the world.
We wholeheartedly seek God in this numinous reality of God’s presence.