ASH WEDNESDAY Day of Fast and Abstinence Genesis 2: 18 – 24 Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return. It is an ancient symbol....
The icon (displayed on our front page) for Matthew’s version of the Gospel is often referred to as the ‘human angel’. It follows, then, that the overall focus which should be borne in mind all through this liturgical cycle is the integration of both ‘body’ and soul’. There is no dualism – no separation of body and soul. The Lord Jesus, for Matthew, was the fulfilment of all the Old Testament prophecies – – – the long-awaited Messiah, the Anointed One, who was both divine and human, a living PERSON whose future coming had so often been pointed to by angels who were regarded as God’s messengers.
The angels may well be totally ‘spiritual’ beings but we are not.
WE ARE HUMAN, and humans have the added advantage (perhaps?) of enjoying a living spiritual element which is integral to our nature. I myself have long been allergic to references to our body and soul! I am not two separate things. Rather, I am a unified PERSON!
All this provide us with some starting points for this Advent Season?
First of all, am I leading a departmentalised life? In other words, do I see my ‘spiritual’ life as something different and distinct from my
human life … or do I see it all as ONE, SINGLE, UNIFIED WHOLE? Am I prepared (and able) to walk through these Advent weeks as ME, the Christian / Catholic person I am?
Then, will I, in these Advent weeks equip myself to celebrate Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ or will this time only be some
sort of sideline which produces a few haunting reminders of how I should be? In other words will I be a human/divine messenger of what it really is all about?
What we are being asked here is clearly reflected by two statements in
THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 2: 1 – 5]. First, we read “come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord …. that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” So many of us have mountains to climb during Advent! Perhaps for some it is the mountain of loneliness or the memory of someone who has died or departed abroad and will not be with us at Christmas? Maybe this year our financial situation has changed significantly and we are no longer able to be as generous in hospitality or with gifts? Is it, on the other hand, that we have just grown tired of the efforts involved in feeling festive (how I dislike that word!)?
All of these will have a negative affect on our ability to be divine/human messengers. The Lord alone knows how much our own small, confined, worlds need a divine message relayed through human ‘angels’? Even if, for example, I am resident in a fairly isolated convalescent home there will be at least one other person around to whom I can be some sort of messenger of the
GOOD NEWS OF CHRISTMAS. It follows that the first week of Advent calls and challenges me to climb – AND GET ON TOP OF – the mountain of any self-pity that may well be haunting me. Come, let us go up! However, if we are to go up, we must allow this first week of Advent to begin teaching us “his ways.” For most none of this will be an entirely new lesson. Rather, it will be a matter of the Lord reminding us that we are still very able to “walk in his paths.” We have done it for a long time so why hesitate to do it again? “Come on, lt us go.”
TODAY’S EXTRACT FROM PSALM 122 (or 121) reminds us that the only way for “peace (to) abide in our walls” is to initiate, from the very beginning of Advent, a little joy in trying to “go to the house of the Lord.”
The NEW TESTAMENT READING [ROMANS 13: 11 – 14a] as well as TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 24: 37 – 44] both provide us with a ‘shot in the arm’ in order to get us going up to the top.
Saint Paul reminds us to “know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep.” He then continues to tell us to “cast off … and conduct ourselves becomingly.” It is not helpful, simply because we have done it all before, to take a sleeping pill at the
start of Advent and make no real effort to conduct ourselves as messengers.
Then, in the Gospel extract Jesus reminds us of the fact that those who ignored the message Noah gave in the building of his ark, were
“swept away.” We must not be swept away by the often frenetic activities and pressures of the society surrounding us. The season of Advent is the human/divine message we are being presented with. Do we ignore it? The Lord also speaks to us of the need “to be ready” – something we have to make ourselves capable of. It does not happen by accident! As our extract from the Psalm tells us – let us “seek good things” in these weeks of Advent. We really do not seek to experience accidents – these happen by themselves! Good planning, together with planned anticipation, is a far better option!