Sunday, 30 November 2008

After the Sunday hospital visit I was in church for the 4pm Vespers which was well attended. Rob Smith gave us an excellent reflection, here it is:

Some words from the thirty fifth chapter of the prophet Isaiah: ‘They shall see the Glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not!’ Behold your God will come with vengeance, and with recompense. He will come and save you’.
Each year as we enter the season of Advent, we are reminded and invited to WAIT. Sometimes this can be hard –like waiting for an urgent letter to arrive through the post, or waiting for exam results. But there is another kind of waiting. I’m sure that we can all remember a time when we were young and promised a special treat on a certain day, and how time seemed to drag waiting for this day to arrive. This waiting is a time of expectation, a time to prepare for a great event. This is the Spirit of Advent. It is a time of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing.
The focus of the entire Advent season, as we all well know, is preparation for our yearly commemoration of the birth of Jesus on that first Christmas night. It is a time for remembering his continuing presence with us in the sacraments. It is also a time for looking forward to his triumphal return at the end of time.
The readings that we heard at Mass this morning and those for the forthcoming week urge us to remember and prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming. We heard St Paul reminding both the Corinthian Church, and us, of the need to have faith and hope until this happens. He advises the community in Corinth to try and heal the divisions that had quickly because the time of Jesus’ return might be sooner than they had first thought.
Jesus’ words in St. Mark’s Gospel provide a stark warning: ‘Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come’. Jesus goes on to explain this harsh notice in the parable of the man who puts his servants and doorkeeper on guard while he is away on a long journey. Each servant had his own work to do while the master was away, but the doorkeeper’s role was not simply the usual task of keeping out unwanted guests. He was commanded to ‘stay awake’, because the time of day or night when the master returns is unknown.
St Mark has Jesus directing this parable at the disciples. They are the ones who must stay awake until the Second Coming. It may seem to be an impossible task to be vigilant at all times, but the intention here is not for this task to be a burden. It is intended to prompt us, his followers of today, to ask the question: are we ready to greet Christ when he comes? Are we like the doorkeeper, or are we more like the servants going about their daily business?
All of us should be honest and admit that we do struggle with our faith at times in our everyday life. We get distracted from following Christ by the pressures of daily living, of the modern commercial world, of work, and, as a result, we let things pass us by. There are times when we simply ‘fall asleep’ and get overtaken by the things that we should have guarded against, rather much like a group of bridesmaids described the parable told in St Matthew’s Gospel. The bridegroom was late in coming, and all of the bridesmaids had fallen asleep. When the cry went up ‘the bridegroom is here!’ the five of them that had taken extra oil were able to go out immediately, greet him and escort him to the wedding celebration. The others, who were not prepared, were shut out in the darkness.
We, too, must be like the doorkeeper or the wise bridesmaids that were prepared. We, like them, know what we are supposed to do to participate in the wedding feast. We, too, must have our lamps ready to greet the bridegroom.
This first week of Advent offers each of us another chance to get ready. It offers us the opportunity to reflect on the events of the previous year, which has been a year of special grace for us at St. Johns, and build on them. It gives us the chance to plan for the future, to renew our commitment to following Christ, to prayer and supporting each other in our Church community, to truly trim our spiritual lamps, so to speak.
So, as we wait for Christ to come again, let us pray with joy for the advent of God's kingdom of peace and truth, in the hope that we too might, in the words of St Cyril of Jerusalem ‘run out with the angels to meet the Master, crying out in adoration ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’’. Amen.

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