As the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
There is no greater satisfaction for us as Christian than to recognize the hand of God in our lives, or in the lives of those we love. Like John the Baptist in the womb, our hearts leap with joy at the least hint of recognition of the Lord’s active presence. It is easy as well to imagine God’s heart filled with a similar satisfaction at His children recognizing the signs of His creativity.
The capacity to detect God’s presence in life is something we learn mostly through prayer. It is from first-hand experience of God’s movement within us that we then become familiar with the subtlety of His ways in all other areas of life. As the Dominican monk Simon Tugwell notes, “Familiarity with God’s ways enables us more and more to recognize certain patterns, certain coincidences, certain little details as signs of His artistry.”
The Jesuit author William Barry as well affirms the importance of prayer in helping alert us to the movement of God when he writes,
Prayer heightens our awareness, it sharpens our ability to feel the ‘finger of God.’ From such familiarity we are then able to anticipate the subtlety of God in all of life.
At Advent we are called to be especially alert to the coming of Christ, and this can also mean learning to recognize the many different ways that Jesus “comes” to us in our day. It does seem that the more we gaze at life with the eyes of faith, and the more we anticipate the presence of God in all things, the more evidence of God we will see in our lives.
Advent proclaims our confidence that “God comes!” Carlo Carretto, a contemporary desert hermit, reflects on the verb tense of this phrase saying,
It is not used in the past tense—God has come, nor in the future tense—God will come, but in the present tense—‘God comes.’ This is a continuous present, an ever-continuous action: it happened, it is happening now and it will happen again. At every moment, ‘God comes.’ It is a theological verb that proclaims one of God’s essential and qualifying features: that He is the “God-who-comes.”
As Christians whose hearts are open to the reality of God, we are now invited to grow in our capacity to recognize and celebrate the many signs of His presence that God has concealed in the very fabric of life. In Mat. 24:42 Jesus tells us to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Though this obviously refers to Jesus’ final return, these words also invite us to keep watch every day for the continuous “coming” of Jesus in our lives.