Thursday, 24 November 2016



Have you ever felt like giving God a good shake to wake Him up?   If so, you’re in good company.   Impatiently, the Psalmist, speaking for his people, exclaimed, “Arouse Yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our affliction and our oppression?"  (Ps.44. 23-24).

He was desperate.   Where was God when he most needed Him?  Where is He now, when we most need Him?  Has He forgotten us?   Does He no longer care for us?   Or is He just asleep and needs waking up?   With the prophet Isaiah, expressing the longings and frustrations of God’s people, we may well cry,  O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!  (Isaiah 64. 1).

God’s very own People had joyfully  returned  from the misery of exile in Babylon.  But they had found their land devastated, Jerusalem in ruins, its temple destroyed.  They became depressed by the arduous task of re-building their lives.   Now the God who had rescued them seemed so distant; their commitment to Him had grown cold.   A spiritual lethargy had set in.

Against this background the prophet reminded God of His commitment to His People.   He begged God to tear open the heavens and come down to help His People - -to re-enkindle their enthusiasm to do His will. The prophet wasn’t just speaking about his own people. His message speaks to us at this very moment!

We can become so depressed at the conflict in the world, especially in Syria and Iraq, the increasing number of homeless refugees, the mounting racial intolerance.  It can all seem too much for us.  We can so easily sink into despair or a spiritual lethargy as we face the dreary routine of our daily lives. We need God to re-enkindle the fervour of our commitment to Him.  We long for Him to tear open the heavens and come to us.

God responded to our needs when His Son was born at Bethlehem.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  He has shared our human life so that we could share His divine life and happiness.  He has come among us to save us from all that oppresses us.

Advent is a special time for us to reflect on our constant need for God to enter our lives, for us to make Him welcome and transform our lives.

But Jesus has ascended to heaven and is no longer physically present among us.   We could so easily fear that He has deserted us, especially when life is difficult.   Our faith and commitment to Him could easily grow cold.  With the prophet we may long for God to tear open the heavens and come to our rescue.

To this Jesus gives two answers.   He has promised to remain with us always, in new and wonderful ways.  He comes to us in the Sacraments, speaks to us through the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church.  Through Baptism the Blessed Trinity abides in us and we in it, and we draw ever closer through the dialogue of love, which is prayer.   And Jesus identifies especially with the needy, whom we meet in our daily lives.  He certainly hasn’t abandoned us.  The Holy Spirit gives us the sensitivity to recognise our Saviour and make Him welcome.

And Jesus has promised to return in glory at the end of time.  That should fill us with hope of eternal happiness with Him, rather than fill us with fear.  Since we don’t know when He will come in glory, today’s Gospel urges us to get on with whatever work Christ has given us to do.  We must watch, so that we are always prepared to welcome Christ whenever He returns in glory.  If we are prepared, then it won’t really matter when that moment comes.

Especially during Advent, we should want God to come alive in each one of us and transform us, so that we can embrace the salvation Jesus has already won for us. That has been the central theme of the Year of Mercy, which we have just celebrated.

During Advent we will sing, “Oh, come, oh come, Emmanuel.”    That expresses our need for Jesus, our longings for Him to enter ever more deeply into our lives, and we into His.
Isidore Clarke O.P.

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