The wish for something or someone begins as soon as we enter this life and does not cease until the moment we breathe our last breath. It is desire. It burns within us all of our lives and, who knows, it may well enflame the ethereal stuff of our spirits once we move on from this life. Personally, I think it will.To cease desiring is to cease being a person, being human. Desire is as beautiful as it is troublesome. Our eyes and hearts wander, fueled by desire, for things, relationships, places and circumstances that are either good or not good for us.
The discernment of the desires that move human appetites is as ceaseless as the desires themselves.
I do wonder why God made us with such richly burning and yet sometimes wayward desires. It is said that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and the struggles we go through because of our desires must somehow reflect the divine life from whence we came.
The season of Advent offers us an array of scriptural stories that reveal the scope of human desire and its ultimate intent and fulfillment. God desires to become one with us -- very much like what we do and feel when we fall in love with someone -- and the magic begins.
He makes His desire known to a young girl through an angelic emissary, and life begins in her womb. It is not long before the desire of God for human life comes into play with others -- with family members, royalty, people of ages past, prophets and seers. These and more drawn are into the drama of the God who entered human history through the flesh of a young woman.
Other desires will obscure the message. Those who entertain desires of power, prestige and the comforts of wealth and privilege will stifle in their hearts the deeper desire to see what is good and real and lasting.
All of this will be played out in the weeks to come.
And it will be more than vaguely familiar. It will be our lives, being retold using the saints and sinners of the Advent stories -- the way a God came to us, and how we were told to repent and prepare for His arrival, and how some of us respond and some of us do not.
I recently read of a large gathering of religious academics that was held on the West Coast. Thousands of scholars attended. It was held in a fancy hotel, a place that served fine food and had all and more of the comforts of home.
The man who wrote the article noted the irony of the homeless just outside the hotel, begging or just huddled in blankets on the sidewalk. All the scholars walked through the door to better secure their knowledge of God and the human. And they somehow missed him as he lay in the street.
God is not to be found in an elaborate insight, or a fancy footnote. God is in life, in the human.
God is often just outside the hotel of our comforts. He is there, reminding us that desire is indeed everywhere in so many forms and persuasions -- but the desire that finds God begins when we take time to look about us and wonder where He is.
When that desire takes hold of our hearts, we will find that the divine is close, intimately close, asking something of us -- asking for food, for warmth, for a place to stay for the night.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga, Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.