Is 63: 16-19; Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13: 33-37
A Christmas Carol
“Wake Up!” This Sunday is your wake up call. Last year on this Sunday, I told you about my cousin Lorenzo at the burial of a relative. It bears repeating. When Lorenzo raised his head from prayer, he saw his own name on the gravestone! This spooked him even though he realized, of course, that it was the grave of his grandfather, for whom he had been named. Still it unsettled him!
I thought of this again this past week when I went to see the film, The Man Who Invented Christmas about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol. (Scrooge will be on stage Dec 15-17 at The Ragged Edge Theatre.) When Ebenezer Scrooge sees his name on his own gravestone, it jolts him. It was one in a series of jolts that Christmas Eve night, administered by Christmas Eve visitors, ghosts, Dickens called them. They came to wake him up, that is, to instruct him. We hear today in Isaiah that we are a people who wander and harden our hearts -like Scrooge. Scrooge needed instruction, correction or redirection. Christmas Eve was his Advent, compressed into one night. It effected a great change in him. Recall how Scrooge awakes from sleep, literally and spiritually. He runs to the window and calls to the boy passing below in the street: “Boy, is it still Christmas? Yes? Is the prize goose still hanging in the butcher’s window? Yes!? Run and buy it for me!” Scrooge turns from his former ways. Spiritual masters call this change ‘conversion of manner,’ a different way of being “a being in the world” (Rahner). Having received instruction, Scrooge begins to walk in God’s ways, becoming lavish with all he meets – “announcing the Gospel of the Lord” to all, from the boy in the street, to this nephew, and of course to Tiny Tim. All this from pondering his ‘last end.’ All see it, too. (“All mankind will see it together.”)
My cousin Lorenzo and Mr. Scrooge have this reflection on their ‘last end’ in common. So should we- especially given our recent parish history. Advent is a time for this. The Church reminds us that Christ invites us all to deeper conversion of manner. We prepare a space within for the continuing coming of Christ. St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises gives us a spiritual exercise. He says: Imagine yourself on your deathbed – like Scrooge. Look back over your life. How would you wish you had lived it? What decisions would you wish you had made? Are there any adjustments we need to make in our lives – as Scrooge did? Through doing an exercise such as this, in these darkest days of the year, God can instruct us in his ways so that we might walk more closely in his paths.
We must be vigilant, not knowing when or in what ‘visitor’ he may appear. As Christ tells us today, he may come ‘at an hour’ we ‘do not expect.’ Wake up. Stay awake. Be alert for his coming, now and at the hour of our death — for Christ comes continually! Every day! We know not the hour. Jesus says: “’What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch’.”