Tuesday 12 December 2017

About Today Readings

Advent Season of Creation. Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Isaiah 40:1-11. Psalm 95(96):1-3, 10-13. Matthew 18:12-14.

The Lord, our God, comes in strength — Psalm 95(96):1-3, 10-13.

The image of God as a shepherd is simple and yet profound.

 

 

Jesus talks about one sheep out of one hundred getting lost. These days we might be inclined to say that one percent of the livestock failed our expectations. But Jesus was never one for statistics. One sheep is an individual with a name and a history and a place in the world. One percent is a dot on a graph and possibly a point in an argument. Loving a percentage is hard.

When Pope Francis speaks about the environment in his encyclical, Laudato Si, he pays respect to all the wisdom and knowledge that comes to us from science. He asks us to love with our heads as well as our hearts. We might fall in love with a beautiful green garden, but if we know that it is taking water from people who need it for crops that keep them alive, we may think differently.

Even so, Francis asks us to follow the example of his patron, St Francis, and ‘transcend the language of mathematics and biology.’ He asks us to share the joyful living of ‘a mystic and pilgrim who lived in simplicity and wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself.’ He believes all these things go hand in hand.

The readings today are about such harmony and connection. The prophet Isaiah is especially dramatic. He speaks of a voice coming in the wilderness, a highway opening through the desert, mountains being filled in and cliffs being levelled. And where does all this lead? It ends with the tender image of a God who doesn’t take pleasure in power for its own sake. Rather, he is like a shepherd who gathers lambs in his arms, ‘holding them against his breast’, creating a bond of heart to heart. He brings mother ewes to their rest.

Recently, I happened to be in a major hardware warehouse, one of the big green sheds that always sells sausages outside on a Saturday morning. I needed something from aisle 64. On the way, I noticed a middle-aged couple trying every type of chainsaw and powered brush cutter available. They were talking about trees that needed to be cut out of their way and bush trimmed down to size. I didn’t hang around long enough to hear the reasons. But soon I was in the garden section where a younger couple was looking at punnets of seedlings, gently touching their leaves, wondering if they’d get enough sun. There was a touch of Advent in that scene, the hope that growth comes from fragile beginnings and that we are called to work with the Creator.

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