Monday 4 December 2017
Advent Season of Creation. St John Damascene. Day of Penance.
Isaiah 2:1-5. Psalm 121(122):1-2, 4-5, 6-9. Matthew 8:5-11.
Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord—Psalm 121(122):1-2, 4-5, 6-9.
Just say the word, Lord.
This Advent, as in other seasons of the year, the media are full of stories of conflict, violence and threats of war and disaster. We long for an end to bad news stories and a peaceful world.
All this was familiar to Isaiah. He promises that when the Lord comes,
‘ He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; they will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation; there will be no more training for war.’
He invites us to picture a magical, peaceful city, and ‘to walk in the light of the Lord’. To rest with this image and to pray wholeheartedly that we may live in the light by hoping for such a world is at the heart of Advent prayer.
The Gospel brings us down to earth by reminding us of the daily disturbances and anxieties that meet us as we rise from prayer. The centurion’s grief for his servant takes us back into the darkness of anxiety and loss in which we spend much of our lives, and how challenging is our prayer to live in the light. God’s world can seem so unlikely. We are invited to wonder at the matter of fact confidence of the centurion’s prayer, ‘Just say the word and my servant will be cured’, and to see how his words taste as we put them on on our lips.
In Laudato Si Pope Francis stresses the desperate sickness of a world so threatened by global warming and by our reluctance to recognise or to meet it in a concerted way:
‘Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity… All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.’
Pope Francis emphasises the importance of trusting God to do the apparently impossible and to change hearts. If we are to live in the light, realism and a hope that outlasts despair are both essential. It is a big prayer.