Welcome to sackcloth, ashes and hairshirts! However, if this is your chosen Lenten garb, remember that you need the permission of your regular confessor! Personally I would never allow it...
No news is good news
– or so the saying goes! But is it true? Perhaps the constant avalanche of tragic, horrific and senseless violence, natural catastrophes, rampant corruption in government, sport and higher echelons of business with which we are ‘suffocated’ in the media has immunised us to anything else?
Does good news really arrest and keep our attention and focus? Is this one of the real problems faced by Christianity in general? THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS – it is the very meaning of the word.
Is there anyone out there actually listening and interested?
Advent, of course, is supposed to be the time when we should actually be AWAITING the Good News that Jesus Christ has come, is here with us, and intends to remain with us …. always, everywhere, and in all situations. We are supposed, in Advent, to want, desire deeply, the reminder of this Good News.
THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 61: 1 – 2a. 10 – 11]
tells us that “the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted.“ Now, if no news is good news what on earth am I doing in Advent? Also, if I see myself as afflicted, what am I saying to myself?
It is important that, in Advent, I communicate good news to myself
! What is the value in extending Christmas greetings to anyone if I have not spoken an identical message to ME?! Only if this has, and is, been done, will I be anointed by the Lord to reach out to others. This is true even when I personally have encountered singular sufferings, hurts, sadness, and bereavements. The first Christmas without a loved one who has either died or betrayed me is always going to be a ‘difficult’ one. So? …. all the more reason to speak good news to myself. If I fail to do so I become an infectious virus to those around me. Isaiah reminds us that “a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up.“ Perhaps Advent is a time for each one of us to plant a garden? There is no need for anything too exotic or to strive for an award in Home and Garden magazine. An insignificant patch of spinach will do just fine!
The whole concept of the Good News (if we plant a little garden) is given a splendid expression in THIS SUNDAY’S RESPONSORIAL VERSES [LUKE 1: 46 – 48, 49- 50, 53 – 54]. There we read: “he has filled the hungry with good things … he has helped his servant.“
Now, if we reflect on TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 1: 6 – 8. 19 – 28] we should discern that John the Baptist was planting a garden ….. a garden from which someone else would produce the real harvest. The Baptist deliberately ‘played down’ his own personal, individual, role and importance. “I am not …. someone else.“
Now this is a real Advent challenge for each one of us
. Do not make yourself the centre of attraction. The good news is not about you. It is about someone else. I am merely the news reader and I am supposed to name the good news …. especially by my approach and attitude to Christmas.
Saint Paul in OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 THESSALONIANS 5: 15 – 24] tells us “not to quench the Spirit” – the same Spirit which will anoint us to become effective news readers.
In addition, the apostle tells each one of us to “rejoice always … (and) give thanks.“ Nothing worse than a Christian unable or unwilling to rejoice during Advent and at Christmas. But remember that Paul emphasises the example of John the Baptist by saying “he who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.“