+ a reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent
+ other Advent II links below
Can you live without the sacraments?
It seems obvious to answer this question with a “yes”. We all know many people who have never celebrated a sacrament, and they are still breathing. They are alive. Therefore a person can live without the sacraments.
Or can they?
The question is a bit deeper than you might first think. Let me explain.
The problem is with our understanding of what constitutes ‘life’. Western society has reduced its understanding of ‘life’ to what once would have been called an ‘existence’.
I will be happy when
Sadly most people, much of the time, feel as though they are not really living. Their hope is that there might be light at the end of the tunnel: when I change my job, when my boss resigns, when I sell the house, when the earthquakes stop, when my cancer is cured, when i have paid off the mortgage, when I get a holiday, when my children leave home, when my enemy leaves town, when I win lotto, when i give up smoking… The list is endless.
In the midst of my struggles, and with the absence of a solution, I resign myself to the idea that this is life. I just have to live with it all.
But this struggling existence is not really living at all.
there must be more to life
I might be coping or surviving, managing or existing, but deep inside I know that there must be more to life.
Then I add to my difficulties the false idea that in order to really live, I have to overcome or to get away from these problems and challenges. The big questions of my life become ‘how can I find a new job? Should I sell the house? Will I move to more stable land? Which website will give me the cure I seek, and so on.
The problem is that these issues, while significant and even dominanting, are never the real issue. We know this to be true because twenty years ago I knew I would be happy when I passed the exam. I passed the exam and my happiness lasted only hours. Then I needed something else. So I got the new job and won lotto (sadly a metaphor not a reality), and still I was not completely happy.
If you recognise your own life in this pattern of disappointment, rejoice! This is a great moment of opportunity for you. The eyes of your heart have been opened! While secular influences and pressures (especially advertising) seek to convince us that their product or service will deliver the happiness we seek, this not true. We are giving in to a deception.
there is an answer
The answer is found in the depth of the human heart. God has planted, in every human person, a sense of our original calling and destiny. This deep drive propels us towards God. At one level this delights and inspires us. And in the same moment such available grandeur terrifies us and we again settle for what is easy and artificial.
Our heart-felt hunger and yearning is so immense that we compulsively settle for available trinkets of temporary satisfaction. And then, minutes later we are thirsty and vulnerable to the next fix of fleeting fantasy.
How foolish is this way of life? How exhausting this journey.
even more than we ask or imagine
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
(Advent II Gospel reading quoting from Isaiah)
Handel’s great oratorio begins with the significant Old Testament prophecies. The people were desperately complaining, “there must be more to life”. And the good news is that there IS more to life and this is found in personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Handel moves from the Old Testament “the people that walked in darkness…” to the moment of incarnation: “…have seen a great light.” “For unto us a child is born…”
the sacraments of the Church
In the sacraments, God comes not only to us, but into us. we are enabled to see beyond our present struggles and anxieties to the real answer to all our human desires.
If you are not convinced, try it. The Sacrament of Reconciliation and weekly Sunday Mass is the place to start.
If you have not been to confession for years, now is the time. Simply begin by saying to the priest “I haven’t been for years and I have no idea what to say, but I think it’s time I came…”
Other links for Advent II
Fr. Robert Barron
Salt and Light TV