1ST SUNDAY ADVENT 2008 B
There is a hint that it is actually God’s fault that
Shortly after his conversion,
Augustine, sincere but restless, had been searching for love and God. Eventually he found them in the most unexpected of all places, inside of himself. God and love had been inside of him all along, but he had hadn’t been inside of himself.
There’s a lesson here: We don’t pray to make God present to us. God is already present, always present everywhere. We pray to make ourselves present to God. Is God present in a drinking bar? Yes. But we generally are more present to God in church than we are in a drinking bar. The problem of presence is not with God, but with us.
Augustine was lucky, the clock never ran out on him. He realized this before it was too late: “Late have I loved you!” Sometimes we aren’t as lucky, our health and our lives must be radically threatened or taken from us before we realize how rich these in fact already are, if only we made ourselves more present to them. If everything were taken away from us and then given back, our perspective would change drastically. Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, had been clinically dead for a few minutes and then revived by doctors. When he returned to his ordinary life after this, everything suddenly became very rich: “One very important aspect of post-mortem life is that everything gets precious, gets piercingly important. You get stabbed by things, by flowers and by babies and by beautiful things-just the very act of living, of walking and breathing and eating and having friends and chatting. Everything seems to look more beautiful rather than less, and one gets the much-intensified sense of miracles.”
Last Thursday there was an article in the Province about Kelly Jablonski, a passenger in that plane crash on the highway by the airport a month ago. He is recovering from spinal surgery and fractured ribs. “I was lying on the floor. I could feel the smoke. I could feel the heat burning my legs.” He was unbuckled and saved by a fellow passenger and pulled free by a fireman a few minutes later. “I’m thankful to be alive. Things look better. They taste better. Seeing my girlfriend mean more because I had a glimpse of it almost being gone.”
The words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark may be read not only as a warning about the end times, but as a challenge for us to live in the present, to engage life now, to be attentive to the moment at hand. It is the call of Advent itself. Be awake. Do not put off the opening of your life to God.
The secret to prayer is not to try to make God present, but to make ourselves present to God. The secret to finding beauty and love in life is basically the same. Like God, they are already present. The trick is to make ourselves present to them. Rarely are we present enough to the moment, or sensitive to the richness that is already present in our lives. Our experience comes brimming with riches, but too often we are not enough inside of it. Like the young Augustine, we are away from ourselves. We are strangers to our own experience, seeking outside of ourselves something that is already inside of us. Advent means “to come”. We need to come; to come home. God does not need to be searched out and found. “I am with you always until the end of time!” We need to be here.
Karl Rahner was once asked whether he believed in miracles. His answer: “I don’t believe in them, I rely on them to get through each day!” Indeed, miracles are always present within our lives. Are we?
Jesus is exhorting his followers to states of readiness: “Be watchful. Be alert.” “Watch!” Awareness can be a function of fear, but also of love. If being redeemed is our final end and if Jesus’ mission was to redeem us and bring us all back to the hands of the “potter” - the Creator - then fear of his coming is not the final disaster, but the final revelation of God’s creative love. Jesus uses the image of a land owner who goes on a journey, but leaves his servants, “each with his own work” to do. The challenge is not just to stay awake, but awake so as to do the work of bringing light and life to God’s world. Waiting and watching out of fear is passive and paralyzing. Waiting in faith is eager and exciting.
Today Geroy Simons needs to be watchful and ready for the end zone pass from Lulay. We need to be watchful for the Lion of David and not drop the ball. The message of Advent is to be constantly on the watch! We base this constant watch not on fear but on hope in God’s promise of eternal life. The promise of Christmas is a joyful anticipation that The Lord will shower his gifts, and our land will yield its fruit.
we are simple clay
in your hands.
Toughen us in our weak places.
Smooth our rough spots.
Heal us as we
Make us ever