Thursday of the first week of Advent
Königstein, 5 December 2019
(Is 26:1-6; Ps 117; Mt 7:21, 24-27)
The readings from today’s liturgy remind us that Advent is a time of trust, because God is coming to save us. The first reading tells us that “we have a strong city”, that it is the Lord who protects us, who grants us peace. We must always trust in God because he is “the everlasting Rock”. And the responsorial psalm reminds us that “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes”. All these affirmations inspire courage and us and induce in us an atmosphere of confident trust, serenity and calm assurance. In these perilous times of a culture that is not merely fluid, but altogether “nebulous”, we have a burning need of this. On a superficial impression, even Christianity seems to be on shifting sands… All the old certainties are being eroded away. Humanly speaking, there seems to be no firm foothold left to stand on. But let us not allow ourselves to be discouraged, because however much people may argue to the contrary, “verbum Domini manet in aeternum”, the word of the Lord endures for ever!
The Gospel tells us how we should express our faith. It is not enough to say “Lord, Lord”; instead we must do the will of the Father. For us then, it is not enough simply to listen to the words of Jesus; we have to put them into practice. And it is only when we do so that our faith will be unshakeable. Only then will we be building our house on rock and remain secure in the citadel. Otherwise, when the enemy strikes, when moral or material trials of whatever kind arise, when we face situations of confusion and contradiction, we will find ourselves without protection.
Genuine trust is shown by fulfilling the words spoken to us. I will give you a simple example: to trust in a doctor doesn’t simply mean listening to his diagnosis, but also accepting the remedy he proposes, following the treatment he prescribes. Otherwise our trust would be a pretence. The same is true of our Lord: we are deceiving ourselves if we say “Jesus is the Saviour”, “Jesus is Mercy”, and then fail to put into practice his words, his teaching. Authentic faith moves us to embrace the words of Jesus in such a way as to transform our lives.
In this we are invited to imitate Mary, who always trusted in the word of the Lord and put it into practice throughout her earthly life. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord”, she said. “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38).
It is not simply a matter of admiring the design of the Lord, but of embracing it within us, of giving our flesh and our blood so that this design may take form in our lives and in the whole world. May this awareness of our Christian identity and sense of mission remain always alive in us.
And so our trust must be in the word of the Lord, not in our own ideas and actions. we must embrace the word of the Lord as a living force that enters us and works within us, and not as a word addressed to us but still external to us, leaving us to put it into practice alone. This is the crucial difference between the divine word and our human words. Human words can help us to a certain extent, but they do not have the capacity to penetrate our souls and transform us. The word of God, by contrast, is truly within us as a vital force, and it is on this that we must build our lives, since it is solid, like an eternal rock. Jesus tells us: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock”. The rock is not the will of the person whom Jesus is speaking of, his work or personal intiative; the rock is the word of the Lord,
Let us then, like Mary, also welcome the word of the Lord, knowing that in it lies our strength. Let us welcome it not only with with our intelligence, but with all our being, our hearts, our will and our capacity for action. It is vital that there be an intimate union between the word of the Lord and all that lives within us.
At every moment the Lord offers us his word, which is rock, which enables us to overcome every obstacle and assures us of victory. And this is the victory that must be attained at every moment of our lives. Our happiness lies in the knowledge that the Lord is victorious, He is the Saviour and in one way or another he offers us a share in his victory, so long as we, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin, open our hearts and our lives to him in complete trust. With these thoughts in our hearts let us journey towards the Manger in Bethlehem and there adore this Word made Flesh!