Sunday, December 03, 2023

The (Not Quite) Auto Door

1st Sunday of Advent (B)

Readings: Isaiah 63: 16-17,64: 1, 3-8; Psalm 79 (80): 2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9; Mark 13: 33-37

Picture: By Kelvin Chan on Unsplash

My dear friends, have you ever been confused by the doors we find at the entrances to many buildings these days? They consist of two sliding glass panels and a black button, on which two words are printed: press and auto. The first word is easy enough to understand. What puzzles me is the second. Can a door really be considered auto, if you have to press a button to open it? … After many sleepless nights pondering this mystery, I’ve come to realise that my expectations are too high. I want an auto door to open on its own, the moment I stand in front of it. But for some, it’s probably enough that it opens electronically, without having to be pushed manually.

A double door that opens for me only when I learn to temper my expectations. Our scriptures bring to mind a similar image today. Two panels between which we need to pass, to enter the holy season of Advent. The first panel is described most clearly in the second reading, where St Paul tells the Corinthians that he never stops thanking God for all the graces they have received through Jesus Christ. Gratitude for gifts already received. Gratitude expressed not just in words, but also in action. By using one’s gifts as God intends. In the case of the Corinthians, their many spiritual gifts are meant for building up the church. Unfortunately, they abuse their gifts. Using them to compete with one another for popularity and power. And so end up dividing the community instead.

Which is why, in his letter, Paul goes on to beg them to be united in Christ. And this fervent desire for unity is an example of the second panel through which we need to walk. A heartfelt yearning for blessings yet to be claimed. Much like the yearning that's so poignantly expressed in the first reading. After gratefully recalling how God has been both Father and Redeemer to Israel in the past, the prophet now begs God to tear the heavens open and come down again. To turn the people’s hardened hearts away from sin, and back to God. As Christians, we believe that this prayer has been answered in Jesus. Whose second coming we now await. Not just in prayer, but also through works of mercy.

Sincere gratitude for gifts already received, and deep yearning for blessings not yet fully claimed. These are the twin panels of Advent’s door, which readily slide open for us, provided we do our part. For how can we be grateful, unless we recall what we have received? And how can we yearn, unless we ponder the godly gifts we may still lack? To pray for and actively cultivate the gifts of gratitude and yearning. This is the button we need to press. Not just to gain entry into Advent hope, but also to open our hearts to the King of Glory, whenever he chooses to come. Could this be what it means to stay awake? Could it be that we cannot truly enter Advent the way many of us are now accustomed to walking down the street? With our eyes glued to our phones. Expecting everything and everyone to automatically make way.

Sisters and brothers, how might we help one another to temper our expectations, so that we may walk together through the twin doors of Advent today?

No comments:

Post a Comment