Sunday, 27 November 2016

2nd Sunday of Advent - Year A

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

[Logan Tom found the children barricaded behind the heavy iron-sheeted door on the fourth floor. It was locked. The children had become wary of strangers and would not open the door. He pleaded with them for some time but they refused to let him in. Finally the leader of the children said she might open the door if he gave her a reason. Logan called out ‘What can I tell you that will help?’ - ‘Tell us everything’ came the reply. ‘We will know if you are telling us the truth, so don’t lie.’]

This passage (my prĂ©cis) from Volume One of Terry Brooks’ novel Armageddon’s Children brought me to a halt. It was a reprise of a discussion I had been having with some friends only the night before. ‘We will know if you are telling us the truth.’

My first response was to the beauty and power of the image - an impenetrable door whose lock would only surrender to the key of truth. It made me think somehow of the hymn for Morning Prayer in the Divine Office:

May what is false within us

Before your truth give way.

My next thought was ‘How would those children know that what Logan Tom is telling them is true? In fact, how would they even come to imagine that they could spot a lie?’

Judge Judy, with her vast experience, is pretty good at lie-spotting but children are even better, especially teenagers. They can sense dishonesty from a long way off and especially contradictions in behaviour and word, perhaps the most obvious lie. I once asked a teenager why she didn’t practise like her mother who went to Mass every Sunday. She replied, ‘Mum doesn’t really believe.’ She turned out to be right.

There is something within a lie that draws attention to itself because it basically doesn’t ‘belong’. A lie is a red flag in a field of green; a wiggle in a straight line; a false note in a lovely tune. As much as it wants to hide it can’t, at least not for long. Perhaps that’s why the children wanted Logan Tom to tell them ‘everything’. Eventually a lie will betray itself, self-destruct. A lie has no future.

The truth, on the other hand, is eternal. It appears, like John the Baptist, on the horizon of our lives and we, like the people of Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole Jordan district, are irresistibly drawn to it.

And why is this? It is because we know that in truth, and in truth alone, is security, peace, wholeness and life. In truth is every good to be found.

I once met a man about to appear in court for a very serious offence. He was beside himself with anxiety. He asked me what he should do to avoid going to prison. I told him ‘Tell the truth and trust in God.’ The judge rewarded his truthfulness with a mere 300 hours of community work. Truth always attracts mercy.

On various occasions people ask me why I believe Catholicism to be true. It's a good question, perhaps the question, for so many. The Faith is made up of many different elements including – the Bible and its many books, Tradition, the Catechism, the Code of Canon Law, Encyclicals and various Apostolic writings, the Liturgy and, very importantly, my own experience. All of these elements form one huge whole, without contradictions, without dissonant notes, without confusion. All fold seamlessly into one peace-giving wholeness. The truth is one, or as the one Master would say, ‘I am the Truth.’

John the Baptist comes in the name of this truth, to prepare his way; the way for the Way. Not only does he preach this truth but he lives it; herein lies his power to awaken within his listeners their love for the truth. People listening and watching catch no hint of masquerade of any sort and obey the message; they repent and confess and are baptised.

The Pharisees and Sadducees cling to a lie, namely: we are children of Abraham. A lie which is half true is still a lie because the truth cannot be divided. Is it important to be a Catholic? Of course it is. Does being a Catholic get you to heaven? No. God can make Catholics out of the stones on the ground as easily as children of Abraham. Having accepted the truth we must allow it to have its way in our lives – we must allow it to ‘make his paths straight’ – what is false within us must before your truth give way.

Advent is a time of restoration and renewal for ourselves. It is a time for us to put an axe to the root of every tree in us which is not bearing the appropriate fruit. You don’t need me to tell you what these might be. Just close your eyes tonight before going to bed and ask the Lord of truth to show you what things in your life you need to stop doing, and what things you need to start doing. He will tell you because he wants one day to be able to gather you into his barn.


Laurie Bissett said...

Loved it...very powrrful...thankyou

Carol said...

Very true Father. Just one thing though - to ask God anything just before bed time is the worst time, for me at any rate! My mind and body is already half-way to the land of Nod. Mornings are better for this, preferably after a coffee.