Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday of Advent II - Mrs Lucy Gardner

During Advent and Lent there are daily homilies given by staff. Here is one given by Doctrine Tutor, Mrs Lucy Gardner. The readings for Mass were Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 95; Matthew 18:12-14. The photograph above is detail from a window in the Holy Name Chapel of St John's Church.

Advent is a time of watching, waiting and searching. During this season, the church reminds herself of the ways in which she belongs to advent; she reminds herself that she is marked by the fact that her time is the time of waiting; she belongs to the time between the withdrawal of the Lord’s Anointed and His glorious return.

And as Christians wait and yearn for the coming Day of the Lord, as they watch and long for Christ to appear on earth again, so too they search out their own true identity, stripping away all that clutters and obscures their true task, making a straight path through the chaos and disorder of their lives (see Isaiah 40:3), laying bear their hearts , and the hopes and fears which they harbour.

As we keep retreat this advent, not by fleeing the busy-ness and chaos of our everyday lives, but by allowing God to lift the burden of them and show us a straight path to the heart of the reason any of us is here at all, we with Christians the world over know that we must learn again our calling and vocation as Christians, as Church.

This is not only to make ready for the coming of Christmas this is not only as a preparation for Christ’s Coming Again. It is in order to learn again what to look for, it is in order more truly to understand the nature of our waiting, its tasks and demands. It is because we must learn ever anew to long and work with God for the salvation of the world.

Great treasures, as well as guilty memories, are buried in the secrets of our hearts. In paying attention to our inmost thoughts, in straining to hear God’s voice amongst them, in laying them out in prayer before him, we shall learn the better who we are, who we have been and who God is calling us to become.

As the words of Isaiah resound in our services and pound in our hearts, we are reminded that one aspect of the Church’s identity which we are challenged to make our own is a sharing in Christ’s prophetic office.

Now this prophetic task, as you well know, is not simply about doom saying or foretelling the end of the world. It has to do to with looking to and for the future, looking to and for the future that God is calling us towards and blessing us with already. It has to do with faith and hope in the future of eternal life promised by God and already foreshown in the raising of Jesus Christ and in the Church’s sharing in His life.

Our hope comes from the past and just as our faith comes from the future. Our task is to treasure both aspects. Holding on to the tradition, in which our identity is buried, we are called to hand on, to share what we have received, which is our future, in which our identity is also buried: we are called to share now in the eternal life which has been promised to us and which comes to us from the future.

Our prophetic task is to show both the past and future aspects of our faith and hope to the world. In one sense, what the Church has to offer is nothing other than herself, except that she does not even have herself to offer. For she belongs to Christ; she is wholly owned by Christ; she is nothing other than a relationship to him; she can offer neither more nor less than Him.

Within this horizon, within this dynamic of our past propelling us to the future and our future returning us to the past, our prophetic task is also one of discernment about the present. We are called to name and challenge sin and corruption; we are called to rejoice in goodness, beauty and truth; we are called to reflect on how things are in the light of how they could be; we are called to make judgements; we are called to tell the truth about the world around us; we are called to tell the truth about ourselves and the Church.

So we are called to tell forth the Glory of the Lord (see Isaiah 40:5, 9, 10); we are called to tell forth the contradictory goodness and sin of the world; we are called to tell forth the wonderful fact that God longs to save the world: he longs to shepherd his flock, to gather his lambs to his bosom (see Isaiah 40:11 and Matthew 18:14), and perhaps most wonderful of all, despite his longing, his patience is long (see Hans Urs von Balthasar).

All this we can only do out of silent, patient waiting, seeking and listening, for our task, our prophetic task, is to hand on, out of love, the faith and hope that come from what has been seen and heard from the Word of God (see Romans 10:17).