Second Sunday of Advent
The repentance John the Baptist proclaims – the repentance to which each of us is called every day, but especially during this first half of Advent is more than simply being sorry – it is a turning of heart and soul, body and mind to God who reveals himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
That’s probably obvious – if you are unfaithful in marriage and then you repent – you don’t just say to your husband or wife “Oh I’m sorry” and then carry on being unfaithful. You say “I’m sorry”, you take steps to avoid any danger of being unfaithful again and you turn to your spouse with renewed love and faithfulness.
There is also a teaching about the nature of sin in Today’s Gospel. Valleys and Hills, crooked paths and rough roads all prevent us from seeing the salvation of God. At heart all sin results from the search for happiness. No one sins to make themselves unhappy. Thy sin because they are desperate for happiness, for fulfilment, for love – and they think, wrongly, that the sin will bring it to them.
Every one of us has this inbuilt desire for happiness; it is part of human nature – that happiness comes in the end from being loved. That is what every one of us, every human being wants, to be unconditionally loved, to know that there is someone who loves me, someone I can give myself to without any fear or doubt, someone into whose hands I can put myself because that person loves me, they care for me, because no one in the world is more important to them than me. Our hearts our souls cry out for this love. And when it is missed, when we don’t recognise it or can’t or won’t see it a huge void opens up inside us – an emptiness which we are driven to fill at all costs.
A friend of mine, Fr Alexander Sherbrooke is parish priest of St Patrick’s in the very heart of Soho in London. He was telling me how desperately sad it is to see every night of the week thousands of thousands of souls, not knowing they are so loved by Jesus, that he offers them every happiness they could wish for, that he dies for their love, - not knowing this and pouring into soho desperately searching for some sort of human contact, however disordered, that might fill the aching void in their hearts. Embracing what they think is the answer, what they think will provide love, happiness and a full life, but waking up in the morning and finding they have been embracing a corpse. That their needs have not been satisfied and the dreadful search must be repeated night after night in ever more bizarre ways with no end in sight.
This is the tragedy of sin. We seek lasting happiness, we seek love, where it cannot be found – we look for fulfilment in drink, television, work, sex, looking after the environment, a shiny new car, keeping fit, even playing the lottery. Not necessarily wrong in themselves but they can easily become the hills or valleys, the crooked and rough roads that prevent us from a close loving friendship with Jesus which is our true happiness.
This is why our Saviour fills in the valleys, levels the mountains, straightens the roads, so we can see him and recognise that only by allowing him to love us, to know us, by loving him and knowing him in return is lasting happiness to be found. He is our life, Advent calls us not just to go to confession, which I spoke about last week, that is the necessary start, but also to turn to him who loves us so much and ask him to help us to entrust ourselves into his loving arms. That can only be done through prayer and we will look at prayer next week.