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Friday - Second Week of Advent

Friday, December 10, 2010
Readings: Isaiah 48: 17-19 Psalm 1 Matthew 11: 11-16

One of the features of our post-enlightenment culture is a somewhat ambiguous attitude to authority. On the one hand our politically correct consciousness recoils at the slightest hint that we are imposing our values on others, and at the same time we aggressively reject any perceived infringements of our own autonomy. Simultaneously, however, the dizzying speed of technological development and a trend towards ever increasing specification has left us more and more dependent on 'experts', authorities in narrow subdivisions of human knowledge in fields such as medicine, economics, computing, and science, whose expertise seems to be beyond the criticism of common sense. If knowledge is power, then, we are in an age of mini-empires, with numerous sub-disciplines of thinkers and practitioners claiming an absolute authority over very specific areas of our lives.

It is very easy to think of the Church in these terms, as just another authority with expertise in that sphere of our life that we label 'religious' or 'spiritual'. Yet the Church is only handing on the revelation it received in Christ, the Word of God. This God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is omnipotent and omniscient, all powerful and all knowing. His authority then, and his teaching, are not meant for a part of our life but for all of it.

In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus parodying his contemporaries, for 'John came neither eating nor drinking and they say, "He has a demon"; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say: "Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners"' Then, as now, God's prophet and his Son were rejected because they had broken out of the mental categories in which people had tried to imprison them. Jesus' contemporaries were prepared to offer obedience to God only in a qualified sense, perhaps because they misunderstood the nature of God's authority.

In the first reading Isaiah presents God not as an authoritarian despot but as a teacher whose instructions guide us to a peace that is 'like a river'. Similarly the psalmist proclaims blessings to those who 'delight in the law of the Lord'. This is the peace, the blessing, of being true to one's nature. Freedom is not found in resisting the authority of God. Freedom comes through obedience, through listening, to the one who made and sustains us. God is not the enemy of our freedom, in fact He creates our freedom; and as our maker and sustainer, the God who knows us better than we know ourselves, He guides and teaches us as to how best to use this great gift of being free. Advent, then, is an ideal time to resolve to deepen our attentiveness to the Word of God, in order that we may be led into a deeper embrace of the Incarnation.

Nicholas Crowe OP


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