Fr John McCluskey MHM gave this homily at FISC in December 2015. The call to renew the face of the earth has not grown any the less urgent in that time, so I have kept the topical references.
- Isaiah 35:1-10
- Psalm 84
- Luke 5:17-26
Today’s readings take us to the heart of what Advent is about: longing and preparing for the coming among us of our Saviour, God coming to save us from our sins and their consequences, to restore peace and right order in our world, balance and integrity to creation.
It’s a familiar theme, but one that surely rings out much more clearly and urgently this Advent, coinciding as it does with the crucial international conference on Climate Change currently meeting in Paris. As we reflect on the readings today we can without difficulty recognise how apt and relevant they are to the discussions and negotiations going on there between all the countries of our world, rich and poor.
We share a common concern about our future and the future of our planet. But that concern is expressed and experienced in quite different ways.
- The meeting in Paris is focussing our attention on the drastic measures needed to save ourselves from the disaster that is waiting for us if we continue to create deserts as a consequence of the way we are misusing the resources of our common home.
- The Advent readings acknowledge the deserts but hold out the hope and promise of a new creation, or a creation renewed. Isaiah assures us that a time is coming when desert land will be made fertile, wasteland will rejoice, bloom and sing for joy; the blind, deaf, lame and dumb will be healed and strengthened; peace and justice will flourish again (Psalm 84). In a word: our world will become God’s creation again.
What accounts for this difference – the difference between the Hope of Advent and the fear and near despair driving the discussions and negotiations in Paris?
I think today’s Gospel points to the answer, since it clearly shows the difference there is between the way we see our problems and the way Jesus/God sees them.
- A crippled man’s friends go to no end of trouble to bring him to Jesus, because they believe he can cure him. Jesus does cure him, but not right away. First he does something they hadn’t expected or even thought about. Seeing their faith, he said to the crippled man, ‘My friend, your sins are forgiven you.’
- They received something they hadn’t thought of asking for, because they had a limited view of what they needed, and equally limited expectations. They simply wanted their friend to walk again. Jesus went much further, freeing him from everything that bound him, healing him through and through. Jesus saw sinfulness as much more deep-rooted that sickness.
I think there is a parallel here with our expectations of what will come out of the Paris meeting. We know that much more is needed than what we are asking for.
- We need brave decisions, major changes in policy and practice around the world.
- But we know also that whatever is decided will be limited, not enough – compromises, steps along the way, and there is a long way still to go.
We know that changes of policy will never of themselves be enough. Something much more radical and demanding is required: a recognition of the sinful, wasteful ways of modern living; and not only recognition but repentance and a real change of heart, and of the values by which we live – a conversion.
It is down to us – as individuals, families, communities – to make the changes in our way of living that anticipate and even go beyond what we expect and hope for from Paris. As the CAFOD slogan has it, ‘Live simply, that we may simply live.’
This means seeing with the eyes of faith what is really wrong, and acting accordingly. As Jesus always said, in response to those who asked for healing: It is your faith that has saved you.
It is that faith that he looks for and responds to in each of us; a faith that may begin by our turning to God for help as we experience some specific need, but that grows into something stronger, deeper; grows into a daily awareness of God’s life-giving, healing presence in our lives and in our world.