Reflection on 1st Sunday of Advent: 1st December 2019

The God of Surprises

Sadly, we’re almost programmed (perhaps by childhood conditioning) to hear the Gospel in a threatening or punitive way, as if Jesus is saying, “You’d better do it right, or I’m going to get you.” With that outlook, we are likely to largely miss the point in today’s Gospel. This is the bad fruit of using religion and Scripture to threaten people into love, which is actually a total impossibility. Most people who start with fear stay with fear and never get to the higher motivations. Let’s try to hear it in a much more exciting and positive way. Jesus is not talking about the second coming of Christ. What he’s talking about here is the forever coming of Christ, the always coming of Christ, the eternal coming of Christ…now…and now…and now. Christ is always coming; God is always present. It’s we who aren’t! We’re always somewhere else. Jesus tells us to be conscious, to be awake, to be alert, to be alive. It’s the key to all spirituality.

Other gospels also use the image of God as a ‘thief in the night, as a landlord who returns unexpectedly.’ That sounds threatening but Luke tells us that the landlord on his return ‘will put on an apron, kneel down and wait on you.’ This breaking into our lives is actually good! God gets into our lives best in the interruptions, in the discontinuities, in the unexpected, in the gaps. God has to break into our lives like a thief in the night when we’re not ready, when we’re not prepared, when we’re not defended, when we’re not all in our head, when we’re not in charge, when we’re not steering the ship. Usually it is in times when we are in the presence of silence, in the presence of love or in the presence of suffering. Our preparedness is not the completion of a spiritual tick list in order to win God’s love. God breaks into our lives in moments of freedom, when we are free from our own ego, free from our own fears, free from our own anger, free from our limited perception of Love, of who God is and who we are in him. At this time of year the word ‘surprise’ is often on our lips. Today’s Gospel speaks about a preparedness which is an openness to a God of surprises.

Richard Rohr. Homilies. Adapted