Sunday, December 16, 2012

Spirituality of the Essential

The 2nd Sunday of Advent


               LUKE 3: 10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist, "What should we do?" He said to them in reply, "Whoever has two cloaksshould share with the person who has none.And whoever has food should do likewise."Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He answered them, "Stop collecting more than what is prescribed."Soldiers also asked him, "And what is it that we should do?" He told them, "Do not practice extortion, do not falsely Accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages."Now the people were filled with expectation, wondering in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.John answered them all by saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but One Mightier than I is coming, whose sandals I am not even fit to untie! He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear the threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff will be burnt in unquenchable fire." Exhorting them in many other ways,John preached the Good News to the people.

The message of John the Baptist in the gospel text of last Sunday (2nd Sunday in Advent – year C) was, “Prepare a way for the Lord…” (Lk 3:4). After hearing this message, we see in the gospel text of today people going to him and asking him, “What must we do” (Lk 3:10). How do we prepare for the coming of the messiah? His general message to everyone is ‘Charity’. His message to the tax collectors is, ‘Justice’. And to the soldiers, “Be content!” John the Baptist seems to be well aware of the situations of each group and quite down to earth in his proposals.

 During the season of Advent one of the themes that we often reflect about, is the theme of the messianic times. What would it be like? The prophets eloquently describe those times as being similar to the world before the fall: the paradiso. Prophet Isaiah says, “I will make rivers well up on barren heights, and the fountains in the midst of valleys” (Is 41:18). And elsewhere (Is 11:6-8), the prophet says, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther lie down with the kid, calf, lion and fat-stock beast together, with a little boy to lead them.”

The paradise that is painted here analogically is the ideal world that we hope for, and it is also a task to be achieved, as a believing community. At Christmas we contemplate the mystery of incarnation: “And the word was made flesh” (Jn 1:14). God is found in the form of a little babe. The Christian God is not only a transcendent creator, but He became part of creation. The world is sacred not only because it was created by God, but also because it becomes the very altar of God. This calls for celebration. This calls for commitment. This calls for an ‘Incarnational spirituality’ in which we once again commit ourselves to an appreciation our responsibility to our world. This calls for a meaningful appreciation of our body. This calls us to situate our Christian faith in the context of contemporary history.

Jesus constantly invited his followers to a simplicity of life. Jesus challenged the wealthy to live simple lives. It was a call to freedom and a sensitivity to the needs of the poor. In the Acts of the Apostles (Chap 2 & 4) the early Christians took this seriously. “They sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed” (Acts 2:45). When this ideal lifestyle was lost in the history of the Church in the 4th Century, Religious Life began as a radical form of living Christian life.

 Today, I think, religious poverty lived out radically, can take greater significance in terms of its implication to our world. The simplicity of St Francis (of Assisi) could give him a status of the citizen of the universe. He could sing the praise of the Lord together with the “brother sun and sister moon.” In a similar vein, St John of the Cross could sing: “Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations … And all things are mine.”

This is the paradox of Christian renunciation. Renunciation makes me own the whole world! This can be extended to our Christian life in what I call, ‘a spirituality of the essential’. On the one hand this spirituality is based on needs rather than wants. On the other hand, it implies that we are owners of none yet we are stewards of all. As pilgrims on this earth we are called by God to till the earth and to care for it. We do not own the earth; we look after it for the next generation.

This spirituality of the essential calls for a simplicity of life and remembering that we are placed here by God to be the custodians of the Earth. It is a counter-witness to the culture of consumerism, extravagance and the superfluous. Perhaps the contemporary slogan of 3R’s could work: Reduce, Reuse, Recyle (in that order)! Perhaps making this Christmas a little more spiritual, rather than commercial, could help! Perhaps the 2nd reading of Christmas liturgy could inspire us too: “we must be self-restrained and live upright and religious lives in this present world, waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus” (Tit 2:12-13).

 St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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