Today’s gospel for this day before Advent is a pretty strong warning. It’s the kind of text that just a few decades ago provided ample material and motivation for a scary fire-and brimstone sermon: “watch yourselves…the day will be sprung on you like a trap…stay awake praying for strength to survive.”
Chances are that most of these fear-filled preachers overlooked the beautiful conclusion of this reading: “stand with confidence before Jesus.”
Every day I am aware of my own imperfection, failure, weakness and sin. If faith is about keeping the commandments and adhering to the rules of religion then I haven’t got a chance. How can I possibly stand before Jesus with confidence?
Thanks be to God faith is not about my success and achievements. Faith is what I have when I know my vulnerability and my need for Jesus who lives among us as a saviour for sinners.
If I think I am doing pretty well on my own and have no felt sense of my vulnerability and sin then I have a real problem since I have no capacity for the love that Jesus offers.
We know this in human relationships too. The one who has no ability to be vulnerable and to honestly share personal failure, shame and sin with a friend is not able to give and receive love.
So real confidence comes not from feeling good about my own life, but in knowing that I am a sinner who is loved and forgiven.
Faith is not a human achievement. Faith is a divine gift.
In these hours before the start of the Season of Advent be aware of the grace you need from Jesus between now and Christmas. Be specific. You might find it helpful to as Jesus to reveal to you the grace you need to pray for each day of this Advent season.