Sunday 6 December 2015

2 Sunday C of Advent, 2015

1. "The word of God comes to John, son of Zechariah, in the wilderness." With Tiberius as emperor, Pontius Pilate procurator in Judea, Herod and his brother reigning in different parts of the land, Annas and Caiaphas doing their thing in Jerusalem, the word comes to John. God chooses, and chooses with utter freedom. He chooses the small, the insignificant, to carry out his plans. He is supremely free in his choice. His word comes to me today, to us, and it is as powerful as ever, and as ever his supremely free and wise choice. Do I believe?

I am thinking of James Foley, whose throat was slit by a ISIS man in a black hood, and the horrifying video of which went around the world. Who, I keep asking myself, was the stronger of the two? And my heart points in the direction of James rather than the man with the knife, the man who slit his throat. It is James who is the stronger. It is James who takes his place in the long line of those who follow in the steps of Jesus. 
Timothy Radcliffe, "Majesty vested in truth," The Tablet (28 November 2015) 13. Radcliffe quotes Edith Stein: "When she read the life of St Teresa of Avila, she sat bolt upright and said. 'It's true.' It was a truth that enabled her to face death in Auschwitz knowing that life had the final word." 
He quotes Leonard Cheshire: "Leonard Cheshire, the highly decorated RAF pilot and founder of Cheshire Homes, went out for a meal with friends during the Second World War. At some stage, he denied any belief in a personal God, and a friend objected: 'Absolute nonsense. God is a person and you know it perfectly well.' / Cheshire wrote: 'No sooner was the statement made than I knew it to be true. It was not that I had known it all along and just needed a jolt to admit it openly, nor that I had followed a process of reasoning which I found unanswerable, but that purely and simply what up to until then had seemed nonsense now carried total conviction.' " 
"Of course we must combat IS. But ultimately we believe that the Word of God, full of grace and truth, will prevail over every form of nonsense. The late Vaclav Havel, playwright and former president of the Czech Republic, asserted that 'hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."  (Radcliffe 13.)
2. We are gathered by the word (C ??). Our origin is in the word. What we are, what we do - none of this begins from me, from us. We come from God, by him we are sent. The apostole, the missionary, is one who is called and sent. Not 'choice' but 'call' - choice is beloved of our age, but call is at the centre of vocation.

And mission is not work, but revelation: to be signs and bearers of God's love to the young.

It is the word that call, that gathers, that sends. That we might be witnesses, signs, sacraments of the love and mercy of God.

3. The Baptist is the greatest among those born of women: the wonderful eulogy of Jesus. And then, as ever, the sharp cut: And yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. The least in the kingdom. For eternal life, keep the commandments. But if you have more, if you would be perfect, go, sell, and then come, follow. ME.  Jesus is the novelty. Not grace, but the mediation of grace in Jesus is what distinguishes the Christian from all his other brothers and sisters, in whom also the Spirit works and blows. We are here because we have been touched by the Word made flesh, touched and warmed and loved and called and sent.

4. So we pray for one another. With joy, with affection. That we might grow in love, in wisdom, in every discernment. Charity with knowledge and discernment: how much we Salesians need that. That we might arrive holy and immaculate on the Day of the Lord Jesus. Like Mary. Confident that he who began his work in us knows well how to bring it to completion, fulfilment, perfection. 

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