Special St Andrews Saints Day Service Tues 30th Nov 12noon following the Coffee morning.
Thursday 2nd December 10.00am Feria
Sunday 5th December 9.30am Parish Mass
Coffee mornings every Tuesday from 10.00am. All are welcome.
“Watch yourselves”, says Jesus. “Stay awake.”
I don’t know about you, but I find that I need a bit more help waking up at this time of year when it is cold and dismal in the mornings. I rely on my alarm clock a bit more than I do in the summer. It’s a clock radio, because I don’t like too rude an awakening. At times I have been tempted to get one of those alarms that you can throw at the wall and that just bounce off without breaking. But far better to be woken up by any kind of alarm than to continue to slumber and to miss important things.
The wake-up call in St Luke’s gospel today comes at the end of a rather daunting list of things that Jesus says will come upon the earth and upon its people. But at the end of these things he does change to a more hopeful tone, when he says that this means our liberation is near at hand. It is clear that Jesus is not speaking to us as helpless bystanders in all of this. He is calling us to be watchful and to ensure that our hearts are not coarsened or our vision clouded by worldly preoccupations. This is not all about the future, but about the times in which we live. For this reason, how we are living now makes a difference, as does the condition of our hearts and minds.
The dramatic language of the gospel today might not seem quite so far from our experience as it might have done, say, a couple of years ago. Our country and the wider world have been battered by a pandemic; it is not yet over, as the emergence of the omicron variant has helpfully reminded us. The clamour of the ocean and the waves can easily conjure up the imagery of climate change. It also brings to mind the displacement of people from various countries and the tragic drowning of people in the Channel in recent days. The words of Jesus seem to be urging us to read the signs of our times. We don’t have to think of these things as though they were heralding the end of the world. But if we pretend that these things have nothing to do with us and if we live our lives as though nothing had changed, then we are deep in slumber and need to wake up.
The alertness and watchful spirit that Jesus is speaking about is also something that speaks directly to our own spiritual lives. In some ways, the church’s year can seem out of tune with the pattern of the world around us. Advent is a season for clearing a path and making a straight highway for the coming of the Lord, not only in the world around us, but first of all in our own lives. It is a time in which we are called to greater simplicity and to liberation from the cares and obsessions of a consumer-driven society. But we know that at this time of year, that consumer society is more hectic than ever – Black Friday is a striking reminder of that. We have to live in this world and there may be many things that we can rightly enjoy about it. Christians don’t have to be killjoys. But maybe we can ask ourselves whether this is the high-point of our lives – or is there something more important that guides our way of living?
The prophet Jeremiah speaks of virtue, honesty and integrity – three things that can be sadly lacking in our political life, in the media and in our own culture. Even to mention those things today can make us seem self-righteous. But all who try to follow Jesus will know that first of all we have to start by being honest with ourselves. Integrity for Christians can only be gained by being honest about the steps we need to take to be more like the person we follow. There are always things in our lives that we need to put right. Advent is not as much of a penitential season as Lent and is more a time of hopeful expectation. Even so, we can make use of the means of self-examination and repentance that the church provides in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We do not have to carry around with us a burden of guilt but can experience the inflowing grace of God that renews our lives from within.
Jesus speaks of the anxieties that can so easily cripple us as we face an uncertain and sometimes threatening world. The antidote to that fear is love. So St Paul in the first letter to the Thessalonians voices a prayer:
“May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.”
Maybe we could try substituting the word “I” for “you” and make that prayer our own, as we pray that our hearts may become more hospitable and more generous. In this way we prepare not just for the celebration of Christmas but for receiving Christ once more into our lives. His love will make us new, shedding light and warmth into our hearts and into our relationships, so that we can be agents of change in our world today.
The Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist is the sacrament of integrity – of wholeness and unity. Christ enters into our lives just as he came into our world when the “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”. We can celebrate and enjoy the secular treats of this time of year. These are not all opposed to what we believe. But let’s set our sights higher as we look to Jesus for our liberation. In this beautiful, hopeful season, let’s remind ourselves that we are a people of hope in a world that stands in need of that message of hope that Jesus brings.