November 28, 2010
ADVENT I (A)
If the master of the house had known the hour of the night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake. – Mt. 24: 43
We are comfortable with the images of God as the Good Shepherd, the mother hen who gathers her chicks, the way, the truth & the life, but God as a thief? How is God like a thief? In three ways:
1) Like any thief worth his salt, God will circumvent our elaborate security systems. He will break through our false illusions. One of these illusions is that we & our possessions are immutable. Another is that the conditions of harmony & peace lie in the use (or non-use) of force, & not in the human heart. Yet another illusion is that we are the center of the universe. The greatest spiritual truth is that our lives are not our own – yet we act as if they are.
We act as if our money & our possessions are our lifelines, but like all lifelines there are two ends. However tightly we may grasp one end, if the other end is not secure, we will falter. God, the thief, steals our sense of security by showing us that the other end of our materialistic lifeline is straw.
But this theft, like all tragedies, should leave us pondering what really matters, like people whose homes & possessions are snatched away by the thievery of natural disasters. One often hears the remark made to reporters, “We are alive. We still have each other.” This is the insight that there is one thing necessary: love of God & love of neighbor.
2) Like all thieves, God comes unannounced. My first cousin, who I grew up with & went to school with, got up one morning, made coffee, & went into the living room to watch the morning news on TV, & collapsed & died from an aneurysm. It makes us painfully aware of how tenuous life can be.
3) Surprise, surprise – God is out to steal. He is out to steal our hearts, to offer us real joy. Not comfort, mind you, or a life free of hurt; but an inner peace that no one can take from us. A sense of the sacred in the world, a horror of violating the planet, the need to be your brother’s keeper, to lose your life in order to save it: this is the security that God offers.
No small thing that. Unlike the thieves we are more familiar with, God does not steal to impoverish us & enrich Himself, but, on the contrary, to impoverish Himself that we might be the richer for it. He became man through Mary not just to experience all the same slings & arrows of outrageous fortune that we humans are heir to, but to show us that we need not fear them. They do not hold the last word. If we can put our lives in His hands, then we are not victims but victors.
During Advent, we look to both comings of our Lord: to the manger in Bethlehem & to His triumphant entry at the end of time. Together, these two comings provide us with the framework for hope, without which life becomes empty & meaningless. No small thing that! AMEN!