Thursday 14 December 2017

About Today Readings

Advent Season of Creation. St John of The Cross.

Isaiah 41:13-20. Psalm 144(145):1, 9-13. Matthew 11:11-15.

The Lord is kind and merciful; slow to anger, and rich in compassion — Psalm 144(145):1, 9-13.

Do not be afraid; I will help you.



I have a colleague who greets me every morning. He gets to work early because he is part of the maintenance team and often enough he is changing light bulbs and fixing doors before the rest of us arrive. In winter, he sometimes turns the heater on in my office so that it is warm for me. He is one of the people on the staff who does not find himself in the limelight very often, and he doesn’t want to be. Sometimes he reminds me of John the Baptist, who Jesus celebrates in today’s Gospel, preparing the way for others, even if that means repairing broken tables and chairs.

Every day, this gentleman asks me what’s on for the day.
‘Oh, plenty of things today,’ I answer.
‘Well, I’ve only got one thing on today.’
‘And what’s that?’ I always ask.
‘Life,’ he says, with a smile and then vanishes with his toolbox in hand.

I love this little ritual, all the more because this man was first diagnosed with cancer almost 30 years ago. He has had countless operations and more close calls than anybody else I know. A large part of his nose has been removed. He loves life. When you see him fixing a hinge, his concentration is beautiful. The present moment is all the home he seems to want.

Pope Francis has spoken a great deal about the Prophet Isaiah, including the passages we are reading during this period of Advent. He has described Isaiah as ‘the great prophet of Advent, the great messenger of hope.’ The Pope says we need hope more than ever: ‘ We have such need, in these times which appear dark, in which we sometimes feel disoriented at the evil and violence which surrounds us, at the distress of so many of our brothers and sisters. We need hope!’

Isaiah describes us in unflattering words such as ‘poor worm’ and ‘puny mite.’ The measure of our pettiness is that ‘the poor and needy ask for water and there is none.’ But the Lord promises to answer them: ‘I will make rivers well up on barren heights, and fountains in the midst of valleys.’ The Lord calls us into a relationship of trust: ‘do not be afraid, I will help you.’

Like my colleague, the Lord loves and celebrates Life, even with its darkness and pain. Like a plant in a dark room that grows towards the smallest ray of light, Advent is the time for finding our direction again.

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