Monday, 8 December 2014

Comfort my people

With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day.
This is a poetic way of saying that God lies outside of time – a difficult enough concept at the best of times. God is also the Alpha and the Omega – both the beginning and the end of existence and the beginning and the end of time.
We come from God and will return to God. The Christian Advent hope is that one day there will be a reckoning when there will be no more tears and no more pain and all the good will be rewarded and all the evil dealt with.
In Peter’s second letter he asks the question, as this is going to happen one day in our future what sort of person are you going to be in the meantime?
He writes “While you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace without spot or blemish.
The first order question for anyone who purports to be a Christian is then to ask ourselves that question – are we at peace with God?
If not, he says strive to be at peace with God without spot or blemish.
I looked up the word and found these two definitions of the verb “to strive”;
“To make great efforts to achieve or gain something” and
“to struggle or fight vigourously”
Both of these descriptions attest to the fact that discipleship – becoming a following of Christ and therefore trying to follow in his way is not easy and doesn’t come without great effort.
The struggle against our self interest over and above what might be God’s interests, the struggle to build Christian virtues into our lives, defined by the Catholic church as prudence, justice, restraint, courage, faith, hope and charity is a struggle and needs diligent attention.
We try and fail often. It is then good to remember that we are not Saints (in the common understanding of the word) but forgiven sinners.
We strive and fail and repent, we strive and fail and repent on a continual cycle and it is a good job that God is forgiving of all those who truly repent. Peter says that God doesn’t want anyone to perish and wants all to come to repentance but within that there is an implicit warning there to those who just presume on God’s forgiveness without true contrition and take liberties with his love, cheapening and demeaning the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
He knows we all fail. Remember the woman caught in adultery. Jesus famously said “He who is without sin, let them cast the first stone. Yes we all fall short we know that. But the woman wasn’t allowed to just walk away. Jesus said to her was “Go and sin no more”. Just continuing in her lifestyle was not an option that Jesus left open to her.
The question posed by Peter to all of us today is “How hard are you trying to follow Jesus in the way?”   Are we striving, coasting or going backwards?
We aren’t on our own you know. God sent us a helper to strengthen us on our journey.
In Mark’s gospel account of John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord, he records John saying this;
“I have baptised you with water, but he – Jesus - will baptise you with the Holy Spirit”.
To baptise means to immerse so we are to be immersed in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Comforter” amongst other things which means literally to strengthen us.
The Holy Spirit gives us strength to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back on the road when we get tired and jaded or just fall over, or more often metaphorically knocked off the road by some person or circumstance.
There are many different ways in which the Trinity can be approached but one of them is how it directly meets human need and I recently read this in a book written by Nicky Gumbel and the author of the Alpha course;
We need a point of reference. Who we are and where we came from and where we are going. That is God the Father.
Secondly we need a role model who shows us how a life in all its fullness can be lived. This is Jesus Christ.
Thirdly we need a facilitator, a strengthener, to help us to get there. This is the Holy Spirit.
All three are essential and a depleted understanding of the Holy Spirit leads to a depleted understanding of the Christian faith.
It is the Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God.
It is by the Holy Spirit that Jesus becomes present in our heart.
It is the Holy Spirit I invoke at the Eucharist to transform bread and wine and ourselves into objects that can be used by God to enrich and feed us.

It is the Holy Spirit that will enliven us, strengthen us and help us to strive for that peace that transcends all understanding.   

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