2nd Sunday in Advent Reflection
Near-death experiences leave an indelible mark: an experience of possibility to follow a different path, a new way.
Such encounters create a new and exciting joy of life that changes everything for that person. There is another spiritual path that opens us to such experience without that radical near-death experience. This is the call of our Advent journey through the desert to prepare away for that possibility of something new.
This is the journey to rid ourselves of that contagion that lies within, deep within our ancestry the great lie and the basis of our fear, ‘there will not be enough, I am not enough!’ Out of this grows our compulsion to gather, to hoard, clinging to our possessions, our accomplishments, our burdens, and our pain, and even to people. This need translates also into our way we see the world: this is correct thinking, this is the world, and this is what it means to be human, authentic, and to be orthodox.
We associate ourselves so strongly with our ideas of what is right, what is proper, what should be and what should not be, that we instinctively label any differences to our way of thinking as heretical, as evil, as disordered thinking, to be denied and to be suppressed. This is me, with all the ideas intrinsic to my being, and so I lash out at the other, “idiot, renegade” and so much more corrosive thoughts and language!
Yet viewing ourselves across time, something unsettling reveals itself. As a young child, we thought in a certain way that we judged to be inherent to our being. Time moved on, and we view ourselves as students with new thoughts and new ideas, changed from our childhood, but still this new thinking inherent to my being, intrinsic to my personhood. Marriages, birthings, and deaths as time progressed, with all those new relationships and new attachments. Yet still, we thought of ourselves as this unchanging being attached to all those feelings, emotions, and judgements. I think therefore I am.
We are beings moving in three-dimensional space-time, continually changing, developing, and evolving. Our intrinsic human dignity does not lie in any single two-dimensional slice of time.
John the Baptist words are prophetic, speaking for each one of us also, “the Christ must increase and we must decrease”. Each one of us is called to prepare a way for the Way, the Lord, so that we may become the true image of the exemplar, that divine exemplar of the Christ that is already within us.
We miss the mark when we give power and authority to the passions and dramas that we associate with our life and our being. These are all the guises of the false self of the egoistic being that we must divest through the process of humble kenosis.
The call to repentance is a call to a new way of seeing, learning to see with the eye of the heart. This calls on us to let go of the traditional progression of building blocks of judgments that rule who is worthy and who is unworthy. Jesus, the Christ, empties himself; this is Kenosis and is the opposite of the clinging to control of space and time as an unchanging singularity.
This is a call for our hearts to resonate with that heart that now beats within the Trinity beyond all time and space. It is only from that broken heart that we can expand and increase our capacity for compassion and love to see as God sees and to look upon creation as good.
“At the centre of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our son (and daughter)-ship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely … I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.” ― (Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)
In this new reality of vulnerability, we come to the possibility of overcoming those passions, illusions, addictions, and compulsions that so often enslave us and are the cause of our being stuck in our circle of suffering. In direct opposition to the clinging of our nature, we are called to let go of all those controlling scripts that are not true to our hearts.
There are a great many numbing behaviours that we use as armour against vulnerability. Yes, there is cocaine or alcohol, but our greatest addiction to the most universal numbing of all strategies is busyness. We are a culture of people who have bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives will not catch up with us.
It was the philosopher Blaise Pascal who suggested that humans are driven by this need for diversion. “A life that’s always time-pressed might seem a recipe for unhappiness, but the opposite is true. Human beings are much more miserable when they have nothing to do and plenty of time in which to do it. When we are inactive or slow down the pace in which we live, we cannot help thinking of features of our lives we prefer to forget – above all, the fact that we are going to die.
By being always on the move and never leaving ourselves without distraction, we can avoid such disturbing thoughts.” But this Busyness comes at a very high cost. The real cost of busyness is missing out on happiness and health, missing out on life. Busyness is a disease that must be treated. It is not a badge of honour or the sign of an important person.
Take time for your desert journey. Take time to become quiet, to resonate with God’s creation. Over the past many months most of us have faced financial difficulty, we have faced the constant danger of contamination and disease. Perhaps this year has been a time of suffering or relationship disasters. Perhaps we have had to stare death in the eyes. How has God carried me through all these things? Remember the words of Joseph in the Old Testament: “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good …”
God is our creator, God is with us, and God is within us; that is enough, I am enough.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:13-16
Please support The Southern Cross
Your support means we can keep Catholic news alive so that many others will have free access to the high-quality, trustworthy news they deserve. We seek your support not simply to survive, but to grow in our mandate to share the Good News and keep you informed about your Church and Catholic faith.
Every contribution, however big or small, makes a difference. Support us today – it only takes a minute. Thank you.