Third Sunday of Advent Reflection
The Great Scandal! – Rejoice and be glad, what incredible, wondrous and awesome good news: you have been made an heir to the greatest fortune on earth; all those things beyond your dreams… But, hold on just one moment, perhaps this is more fake news. Many of us who have been involved in large estates, either as an executor or as one of the heirs, know all too well the disappointments, the suffering, the squabbling among the beneficiaries of the largess of others. Inheritance issues can cause, what seemed like a fairly normal family, to descend into a whirlwind of accusations, hurt feelings and greed.
Sometimes facing reality about one’s kin is hard. Like the great mystic, Thomas Merton, let us eavesdrop as that guilty bystander on the events that unfold. St Francis admonishes his followers about this type of greed, telling the story of those very unhappy siblings, complaining bitterly about how their parents had squandered their inheritance, “why did they need so much to live on?”
Then there is the story of a man who fought his six siblings over their deceased father’s valuable farm. But then his victory turned sour as his siblings sought revenge. His boss, his closest friend, and his fiancée all received letters accusing him of being a liar and a cheat. Each letter included secrets he had confided in his family before the troubles started and each letter was signed from “a sibling” without a specific name. The man never found out which of his brothers and sisters wrote them, but the results were heartbreaking.
The narrative always follows the same pattern: I was the one that cared for them while they were alive; the others have plenty in any case, why should they get anything; this is the narrative of entitlement and exclusion; I’ve worked for it, I deserve it, they do not! And so joy is turned into sadness, light into darkness and hope into despair.
Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God, fulfilling all the requirements of the Law in his life death and resurrection. In this new age of the son of man, the Law is completed and a new and eternal covenant in the blood of Jesus is established with humanity. This is the new covenant of mercy, forgiveness of sins, compassion, and Love; the Commandment to Love each other as Jesus loved his disciples.
All the burdens of our grievance, the experience of broken and exploitative love and mistrust, making it impossible for us to enter into that vulnerability of self-emptying Love. It is only by means of the sacramental grace born through water and fire and the Thanksgiving of the Eucharist that God gives us the new Way. This is redemption that the law can never bring us.
Many however doubt the largess of such grace, both in Jesus’ time as among Christians today. The very same narrative of those squabbling heirs that find it impossible to love, underlies the self-righteous entitlement of those who consider themselves worthy so that others must be excluded.
Even for that great saint and Prophet, St John the Baptist, the incredible largess proclaimed by the kingdom of God, was a difficult thing to bear, and so doubt crept into his mind. Had he been misled at the baptism of Jesus? Where was the brimstone and fire that would wipe out evil? At the baptism on the Jordan, John had first-hand experience confirming Jesus as the Christ, yet the incredible, wondrous and awesome news proclaimed by the Kingdom of God scandalised this great Prophet.
It is only once we have come to experience that great love of God manifested in Jesus and so many of the saints who followed the Way, that we also can rejoice and exult in such a wondrous proclamation for all of humanity and for all of creation. This is the Good News we can trust!
Thank you for the earth, our mother,
she who feeds us and sustains us;
for her fruits, her grass, her flowers,
for the mountains and the oceans.
Praise for those who spread forgiveness,
those who share your peace with others,
bearing trials and sickness bravely.
Even sister death won’t harm them.
‘Praise be to you, O my Lord’.
For fire and water,
Life is but a song of worship,
and the reason for our singing
is to praise you for the music,
join the dance of all creation!
Praise to you, our God and Father,
praise and thanks to you, Lord Jesus,
praise to you, most Holy Spirit,
life and joy of all creation!