23 October 2015 The Jesuit Institute South Africa, seeing education as critical to the betterment of our society, supports the rights of students to peacefully protest against the high and...
I must feel every moment of these last few days of Advent
. The labour pains of giving birth to new life are intense and not a little anxious. However, they are always exciting and filled with hope. The mother will do her very best and that effort is one of effort, love, and expectation. She feels every moment. If we want Christmas to HAPPEN in, for and with us, then we have to labour. We must assist HIM to live proud and tall.
In the past weeks we have reflected on the need for us to have an Advent sense of expectation, of believing that our God will be faithful to his promises and cause a happeningin our lives. We also warned that we could very easily hurl stones at ourselves by not making space for God to work with and in us. Then, of course, we had to be wary about feeling sorry for ourselves and not really wanting any special Christmas happening … and excusing ourselves from heartfelt participation.
Now this week
(and the third Advent Sunday is traditionally known as rejoicing Sunday) we are challenged to be HAPPY! Happiness is really a deep sense of peace and contentment with a present and existing reality. In this sense the main cause of any unhappiness is my failure to be at peace and content with myself …. the refusal to accept changed circumstances of living together with a hankering over the past. If we are really honest in our memories of the past we will remember that each and every Christmas had its peculiar problems and setbacks. How often did we have a totally perfect Christmas ( and I am not talking about the dinner and table settings)?
This Sunday our
OLD TESTAMENT READING [ZEPHANIAH 3: 14 – 18a] says to us flush the past and your discontent. “Rejoice with all your heart, the Lord has taken away the judgements … he has cast out your enemies … you shall fear evil no more.” I must be honest ….. my greatest enemy is me. Why? …. because I refuse to pull the chain and flush. I prefer to be happy with my self-imposed pessimism and am determined (with reluctance!) to remain happily unhappy. If this is the case then TODAY’S PSALM [ ISAIAH 12] means absolutely nothing. “I will trust, and will not be afraid … the Lord God is my strength … he has become my salvation … with joy I will draw water from the wells.”
Some of you may well have heard of the American poet Robert Frost. In one of his poems he speaks of a ramshackle, uninhabited old farmhouse he often used to pass by and writes:
“There is a house that is no more a house,
Upon a farm that is no more a farm,
And in a town that is no more a town.”
He tells us there is an old well still there – where he keeps a broken cup so as to slake his thirst on his long rambles through the woods. He then writes:
“Here is your drinking cup,
here are your waters
and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again.”
I like to see Advent as a time and opportunity for me to ramble through the woods and find something special; something which once was there. Advent prepares me for Christmas which is an essential watering place for my personal journey and pilgrimage. It does not matter how ramshackle I might see my life – or even, perhaps, the reality that my house is no more my house. Christmas is my watering place. However, to drink and be whole again I must know where I have hidden the cup. Advent must provide me with the space to discover where my cup has been hidden by no one other than me.
To this challenge of the psalmist we should add the opening words of
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [PHILIPPIANS 4: 4 – 7]. “Rejoice in the Lord always ….. rejoice …. the Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything … with thanksgiving let your requests be made known. …. “ The search for my cup must start without anxiety and with thanksgiving for what I already have.
At the same time do not overlook words from
TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 3: 10 – 18]. Ask yourself the question, “what must we do?” However, they “questioned in their hearts.”
Rediscover your heart in Advent – otherwise it will be absent for Christmas.