Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5
                 Romans: 13:11-14

The Mass readings for this first Sunday of Advent provide us with a wake-up call: St Paul tells us “you must wake up now” and in the Gospel Jesus tells us to “stay awake!” while the Prophet Isaias invites us to “walk in the light of the Lord.”  So as we begin a new Church year we are invited to come into the light – to remove the blinds from the windows of our hearts and to let the light shine in – remembering that the true Light is Jesus Himself.  He is the True Light shining on us and who desires to penetrate and posses our inmost being.  

The struggle between light and darkness is a perennial one – it is the struggle in which we are all engaged – the struggle to keep our hearts free and not to allow ourselves to be enslaved by false attractions – the struggle to keep our hearts free for God alone.  It is the struggle about which Paul speaks in the letter to the Romans: “no drunken orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness and no wrangling or jealousy.” And he advises us: “Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ; forget about satisfying your bodies with all their cravings.”   Today there is a lot of darkness in the world around us – at times it would seem that the powers of darkness are let loose but we know that the light will eventually triumph.   More than ever before it is necessary for us to “give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark and arm ourselves and appear in the light.” We must let nothing enslave us or captivate our hearts or impede God’s light and love from shining through our lives to a needy world.  We all know how easily we can be enslaved by trifles – holding on to mere nothings.

We remember how Augustine’s life was transformed while reading this passage from the letter to the Romans: After years of struggle and resistance, in one instant he was free to break loose of his past and come into the light – or rather to allow the light to penetrate and show up the darkness.  All his fears fade away and now he is free to let the light shine in – reminding us of what Paul wrote to the Ephesians: for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; ..Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them…..when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it is said,

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead,

and Christ shall give you light.”

Just as in the case of Augustine, all our yesterdays lead us to the NOW of today and NOW is always new and different and must mean letting go of whatever hinders us from surrendering to the God who is lovingly awaiting our response.  Can we use these days of Advent to relax in the light of His presence and ask Him to draw back the blinds of our hearts and open our eyes and ears to His love streaming into our hearts?  The following quote from Jean Corbon’s book Path to Freedom seems apt:

“Our ultimate liberation is to open ourselves to a new presence, and the peak of our activity is to relax in the gratuitousness of receiving.  The more He frees us the more He gives Himself.  His gift is a presence of light.  Our task is to open the blinds of our prison and let in the rays of His light.”

May this light stream into our hearts this Advent enlightening “the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope to which He has called us”  and appreciate more deeply what He has already accomplished in us through Baptism – the sacrament of enlightenment – so that a ceaseless hymn of thanksgiving will spring forth from our hearts to “declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.”

I finish with this beautiful prayer of St Columbanus:

“Would that my lamp might ever burn by night in the temple of my Lord, that to all entering the house of my God it might give light. …Lord, grant me that love which knows no fall, so that my lamp may feel the kindling touch and know no quenching, may burn for me and for others may give light.  Do you, Christ, deign to kindle our lamps, that they may shine continually in your temple and receive perpetual light from you the light perpetual, so that our darkness may be enlightened and the world’s darkness may be driven from us.”