Thursday night saw 8 of us gather at Sharon and Graham’s for some of their wonderful hospitality and our adults’ Advent group. The resources we used can be read below.
I found that I got so much out of the evening. Sharing this kind of prayerful study of scripture and spiritual thoughts is a real priviledge and I have found deepens my faith every time.
Thinking back over the evening there seemed to be common themes that came out. From the Jeremiah reading there was a sense of both the timeless nature of God’s invitation. When is the prophecy for? For Jeremiah’s time? For the time of Christ? For ours? For the end of time? This question prompted a sense of this promise extending through time. Others also had a sense of the vastness of the invitation contained in the promise. The image of the ‘city’ used by Jeremiah gives a feel of a multitude. Cities teem with people and God’s invitation extends to all people of all times. From this reading we had an awareness of the expansive nature of God’s love, life and promise.
A line from the quote from Blessed John Paul II that was important for some in the group was “In Jesus Christ the eye of faith beholds the human being as it can be and as God wishes it to be.” Faith enables us to see ourselves and others differently.
Take these two strands. When we encounter God there is a sense of the expansive, of the generous welcoming of all. Vastness and eternity that takes our breath away. And in this encounter we start to see as God sees. We see ourselves as we really are, as God gazes on us and we see others in that way as well. It is enough to take your breath away.
It was this sense that we took into the next set of readings, ones in which many things are shaken! One person noticed quite quickly the contrast between that which is godly and that which isn’t. Words from the Gospel and from the late Pope demonstrate this. Words that jumped out for this person relating to God were “confidence,” “nourish” and “generous”. Those words that struck her that weren’t about God were “coarsened” and “fear”. I found this very helpful. In myself I was very aware that there are elements in me that work against what God would wish to do in my life.
In our two groups this awareness seemed to be linked to the parts of the readings about the things we need to do to grow in faith. The second quote we looked at talked about being “ready to deny ourselves, to give ourselves; we must also be ready to make sacrifices, to renounce ourselves and have a generous heart.” If encounter with God can often be characterised by this expansive, welcoming experience, withdrawing from God can be shut off and we can be possessive about the things we cling to. The answer to this ‘closing off’ or ‘possessiveness’ is a self-giving or a letting go. This letting go is what begins a generous heart.
I was struck by the contrast time and time again on Thursday evening. I did begin to ‘see differently’ I was reminded that the things I cling onto for security in the spiritual life, the things I am reluctant to relinquish, pale into insignificance when we are brought into the expansiveness of God’s love. Why do I forget so often? Thursday was a reminder and a call back to awareness of the enormity of God’s promise.
So, we begin Advent with this held in our hand. Faith makes us aware of what we are being offered and of what, within us holds us back from receiving. Now might be a good time to repeat the questions we asked ourselves in our closing Examen: “What is it that God is bringing to birth in me this Advent? What, in me, gets in the way? What do I need to do to co-operate with God’s work?” We ask and answer these questions in the presence of the God who is expansive and vast, who welcomes all and who helps us see differently.