1st Sunday of Advent. November 30, 2014.
Is 63:16-17,19; 64:2-7; 1Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37
Honesty and authentic fellowship with God
Ever had one of those brutally honest conversations with someone? I remember having one of such conversations with a priest from India some years ago. He honestly spoke about life in India without exaggerating the good or blurring the evils. He spoke of the beauty and joys of life in India and the rich Indian cultural heritage as well as the painful reality of the manipulation and exploitation of the poor and women and a demeaning caste system. Listening to him share his story with all honesty evoked a similar honest sharing on my own part about the beauty of life in Nigeria as well as the numerous evils that plagues the country. An authentic fellowship between us emerged out of such honest sharing of the light and dark aspects of our cultures.
In the First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah’s prayer reflects this honesty that is needed for true fellowship with God. He reveals the privileged relationship they have with God: “You, Lord are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.” He also speaks of the beautiful desire that they have for the messiah: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” But he is not ashamed to also acknowledge their infidelity to God: “Behold you are angry and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags…our guilt carries us away like the wind.” Finally, he affirms their need for God: “We are the clay and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” The Prophet acknowledges the great gift of their relationship with God, their sins as a people and their need for a redeemer. Authentic fellowship with God is not possible without this sort of honesty.
St. Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth that “God is faithful, and by Him they have been called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” This fellowship with God in Jesus Christ also demands that we face, accept, and reveal the truths about ourselves. On His own part, Jesus reveals Himself completely to us: “I call you friends because I have revealed to you all that I have heard from my Father.” (Jn 15:15) His self-revelation to us is brought to completion by the gift of the Spirit: “The Spirit will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Jn 16:15) Jesus is faithful to us on His own part of the fellowship. But how honest are we in our self-revelation?
Our fellowship with Jesus is weakened when we fail to live in the honest truth of our gifts as well as our sins. Ignoring, minimizing, or exaggerating either our gifts or our sins makes honest self-revelation impossible and wounds our fellowship with Jesus Christ. Jesus exhorts His disciples in today’s Gospel to watch “because they do not know when the Lord of the house will come.” This call to vigilance is a call to avoid self-deception that neglects the great gift of authority given to them for the sake of service. Such self-deception leads to a loss of the sense of need for their master and complacency in discharging their duties.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are ever going to be in fellowship with God in Jesus Christ, then we must be ready to honestly acknowledge the good that we have received from God, our sins and infidelities to Him, as well as our continuous need for our redeemer, Jesus Christ. St. John reminds us of the need for this honesty in our fellowship with Christ: “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth…If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” But if we honestly own and confess our sins, “He is faithful and just, and He will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jn 1:6,8,9) It is our insincerity alone that hinders us from experiencing God’s faithfulness to us in our fellowship with Him.
The Advent Season is one of waiting for the coming of Christ. How can we wait for a messiah if we do not have a true sense of our need for Him? We will attain this sense of our need for a redeemer if we are truly grateful for our blessings in this life and acknowledge and accept our personal responsibility for our sins. Such honesty that is rooted on the truths of our giftedness by a loving God, our failure to respond to this love and our need for a redeemer acts like a magnet that draws the redeemer to us because it places us in a humble position before God.
Let us look to Mary at the beginning of this Advent Season. The Patriarchs and Prophets before her all longed for the coming of the Messiah but did not see it. Immaculate Mary drew God into her womb because she had a humble and profound sense of her need for God. She who expressed her humility and gratitude in these words, “He who is mighty has done great things for me” also honestly acknowledged her need for God as her saviour, “My soul rejoices in God my saviour.” Nothing could diminish the fellowship between this maiden of Nazareth and Jesus Christ because, by her honesty, Mary never lost sight of her need for God her Saviour.
As we receive the amazing gift of the Eucharistic Son of Mary, Jesus Christ, we are reminded of our being called by our faithful Father to fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus gives all of Himself to us without reserve because He is the faithful potter who never ceases to mould the clay. May we see ourselves as clay, amazingly gifted and tragically fallen, and give all of ourselves honestly to Him, with all that we have, even if it is only our sins. We must resist the temptation to pretend to be something or someone other than who we truly are. When our honest self-giving is patterned on the true self-giving and revelation of Jesus Christ, we shall know the power of such honesty to draw God into our souls and bring us into life-giving fellowship with Him.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honour to Mary!!!