Tue 21 Dec, 2010
Clyde Prioress Sister Sean’s Fourth Sunday of Advent Reflection given on Dec. 18
In the first reading for this Sunday, “The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: ‘Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;’ But Ahaz answered, ‘I will not ask!’”…So the Lord gives a sign, regardless.
So much has been written about obedience and faith, comparing the response of Ahaz to that of Joseph and of Mary. Regardless of whatever political undercurrents he was struggling with, it does appear that Ahaz could use a bit of attitude adjustment.
Nevertheless, the sign is given. Something is in the works that’s much greater than Ahaz. And so many generations later, what took place would fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
As we go through the liturgical seasons, we have opportunities to focus on obedience, turning back to God, mending our ways, preparing our hearts to start anew, and becoming somehow different – in a better way – hopefully. And to begin with, we might put a lot of energy into this and sincerity. Each day, we hope to become more of what we are called to be in God’s creation, than we are at the moment…to be fully obedient to whatever God asks of us.
All of this is good.
But eventually, it might also be good to ask ourselves – what’s the energy that now drives us in all of this? What’s the source of that energy now? Intellectually, spiritually, we know anything good is always due to God’s initiative. But sometimes there’s an almost imperceptible change that begins to take place in our understanding of that.
[We’ve all probably heard the expression: “If you’re flying a plane and God is your co-pilot, you’d better trade places!”] Even though we may have given up our own agenda, there’s a very subtle shift in perspective that can move us from acknowledging God’s initiative to thinking it’s all our own accomplishment, our own doing…and yes, God is there… somewhere…in second place.
This attitude is not new. The very first ammas and abbas who went to the desert in the 4th century were already confronting this very human tendency. This is also noted in the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict — those who fear the Lord “do not become elated over their good deeds; they judge it is the Lord’s power, not their own, that brings about the good in them.”
And that good is for the benefit of more than just that individual – it’s for the benefit of all.
We are called to be part of something much greater than ourselves. As St. Paul says, “we have received the grace of apostleship.” Can there be any greater demand for obedience? Truly, it is by the grace of God.
We may struggle at first, but with perseverance, we’ll find that place in our heart, where in faith we can truly say with the prophet: “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your Name give the glory.”
Despite our weakness, our constant falling and starting over, our God is patient. God continues to take the initiative. A sign has been given. The words of the prophet have been fulfilled.
Emmanuel. God is with us. Now. Always.
Thanks be to God.
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