Page 10, 26th November 1999

26th November 1999
Page 10
Page 10, 26th November 1999 — David McGough

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First Sunday of Advent Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1, 3-81; Corinthians 1:3-9: Mark 13 "STAY AWAKE!" The season of Advent challenges our complacency. The kingdom which Christ inaugurated is far from complete. Within us all there is a restlessness which aches for completion. God's purpose for us has yet to reach its full potential. Advent gathers together our unfulfilled lives, focusing them on the future which God will bring about. At the end of time, what has been begun in us will be brought to completion. We do not stand apart from this process. Advent stirs our lives into the watchfulness which opens every moment to the coming of Christ.

In the Gospel Jesus used the image of the doorkeeper. We guard our lives as the doorkeeper guards his house. Every day we make choices, determining what we will admit to our lives and what we will exclude or overlook.What we are is largely the result of the choices we have made, the doors that we have opened or closed in the dwelling which is ourselves. The words of Jesus "stay awake because you do not know when the master is coming" challenges the unreflecting complacency with which most of these choices are made.

Advent is the season when we open the door to Christ. When we recognise our inner emptiness, we become the more watchful, the more eager to open the door.

The words of the prophet Isaiah enable us to review what we have become, to recognise the doors that have remained closed. We are confronted with our hardened hearts. "Why Lord, leave us to stray from your ways and harden our hearts against fearing you?' Most of the time our sin is not a conscious turning from God. It is more likely the loss of sensitivity described as hardness of heart. We become insensitive to the things of God. We become impassive, unyielding to his presence. The reality that sin chooses is perfectly described in the image of withered leaves. The appetite for goodness dies within us, like leaves withering on the tree. Like leaves in the wind, we are blown about by our sinful and unfulfilled desires. There is no clear purpose to our future, only the confusion of our desires. Having described so graphically the reality of sin, the prophet reminds us of the fatherhood of God. In him our disordered lives take on meaningful shape. "And yet you, Lord, are our Father: we the clay, you the potter, we are all the work of your hand." During Advent we allow God to mould our lives.

The words of St Paul gives confident hope to the season of Advent As we review our lives, all is not negative. There are abundant signs of God's presence. "I thank God that you have been enriched in so many ways... you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are awaiting for Our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." During Advent we take the time to acknowledge God's work within us. This becomes the foundation of God's future within us. "He will keep you steady and without blame until the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ, because the Father has joined you to his son, and God is faithful."

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