1 December 2013
Veronica Lawson RSM
‘Where is the Life we have lost in living?’ asks the Chorus in T S Eliot’s The Rock.
The Jesus of Matthew’s gospel is implicitly asking much the same question as Eliot’s Chorus. He is making much the same observation as Henry David Thoreau: ‘Most [people] lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.’ We are invited to find Life in our living and to sing the songs that are in us. As I write I am acutely aware of two of my mentors, Professors Sean Freyne, who died in August, and Jerome Murphy-O’Connor OP, who died just a few days ago. They were both much larger than life. Like them, we are to be agents of our collective future rather than unthinking participants in the inevitable round of daily activities that have preoccupied humans from time immemorial.
Matthew’s Jesus invites us to contemplate the basileia or kin-dom verities even as we attend to the demands of the present. He tells us to be ‘awake’, to be ‘ready’ all the time, not because death or the end of the world are around the corner, but because we need to recognise the multiple ‘advents’ or arrivals of the Christ, the Human One, calling us beyond self-absorption to Life.
Dreams and visions have always been the precursors to effective and life-giving change. We need the grace to see visions and to dream dreams that make for justice and peace and that permit us to walk more freely in the light of our God. We seek the grace to ‘see’ God’s word as did the prophet Isaiah in the first reading (Isa 2:1-5), to put our energy into creating life-generating systems that enable us to move forward in the paths of gospel compassion and love.
We spend much of our time looking back. That has its place, since our history informs our present and helps us to shape our future, though all the while we know with Auden that ‘[t]he past is foreign country: they do things differently there’.
Advent invites us to look forward rather than back and to dream gospel-inspired dreams that will enable creative change in our own lives and in the life of our planet.
This Advent, we might open our hearts and share our wealth with those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, so that they too might find life in the midst of their suffering and know the presence of God this Christmas.