Is 2: 1-5; Rom 13 1-14; Mt 23: 37-44
On Black Friday I was reading the Weekender section of the Herald Leader. It details all the entertainment one can take in during the holiday season. Many offerings are repeats: Messiah, Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol. Why is that? For one thing, they make us feel good. They also contain messages we need to hear repeatedly each year. We hear themes every year in church, too, because we are a forgetful, distracted people. So, we look again at themes that are essential.
Every year we hear the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. (He will be on stage this coming weekend at the Ragged Edge Theatre.) His is a story of a great conversion and transformation. He is so hardened that he needs to be visited by spiritual visitors who jolt him and gradually break through his hard shell. He is made to ponder his ‘last end’ when he sees his name on his gravestone. Is this what he wants as his last end? Those spirits came to instruct Scrooge in God’s ways (Isaiah 2), that he might work in new paths. He awakes from sleep, as Paul says (Rom 13), and becomes a new man. St. Benedict calls this “conversion of manner,” a changed way of living in the world. Scrooge becomes generous to all he meets, announcing the Gospel of the Lord. And all the people see it together. It is the “invasion of Grace” (Bishop Barron.)
Another film appropriate for Advent is the story of Mr. Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers is the spirited visitor who repeatedly jolts Lloyd Vogel, his interviewer, to wake from sleep to a new life, to conversion of manner, to the life of Grace. It’s a true story.
We are all called to conversion of manner, to prepare the way of the Lord, to open a path for the Lord to enter, to be touched by Grace. If we are closed and hard boiled like Scrooge, sometimes a series of jolts wake us up.
Black Friday can distract us from what is essential. That’s why we need reminders, why we need to hear these stories again each year. They open our hearts to God’s life and deepen that life in us. It is also what we do this weekend with the baptism of two children, one on Saturday, another on Sunday. Baptism opens the path of life and grace in them. It also renews the life of grace in their families and in all of us who are witnesses to this powerful action of grace in our midst. We awake from sleep and all of us see it together, this glory of the Lord in our midst. A blessed Advent to us all!