2nd December / 3rd December, 2017
First Sunday of Advent
Three times in this weekend’s Gospel ( Mk 13:33-37) Jesus encourages his followers to ‘stay awake’. We know the call to ‘stay awake’ is meant for us too. It is a very appropriate call for the beginning of the liturgical year.
Habit plays a big part in our lives. All of us, except the very young, are to a great degree creatures of habit. Dostoevsky said that we live the second half of our lives according to the habits acquired during the first half. That is comforting for those who have formed good habits, but disturbing for those who have formed bad habits.
There is a positive side to habit. Repetition is necessary. It is a hard grind and a tough discipline, but it can bear fruit. Habits can be life giving and sustaining. Daily habits and routines can keep people going and help them get through their bad times, when even the smallest of our daily habits become meaningful.
Nelson Mandela gives us an example of this. Writing about his time in prison, he said, ‘ To survive in prison, one must develop ways to take satisfaction in one’s daily life. One can feel fulfilled by washing one’s clothes by sweeping a corridor….’
But there is a negative side to habit. Doing the same things day in and day out can be soul-destroying. We can get into a rut, and end up doing things merely out of habit. This results in things being done absent-mindedly and in a casual, unthinking manner. There is no real heart or feeling in them.
Habit can be a great deadener. It dulls our senses, especially our seeing and hearing-further, habits are nearly always selfish, very hard to break, especially bad habits. An actress once said: ‘I like to keep the script fresh, bright, alive. If you are too familiar with the material you tend to give a rote performance. You need to get out of your comfort zone.’
We need to combat that stale and weary sense of the familiar. Maybe that is the purpose of Advent. It issues us with a wake-up call. It provides us with a chance to start again.
We can easily become Christians by habit only. We are just going through the motions. The result is a rote and often empty recitation of our prayers and dare I say it, worse still, we don’t hear the Gospel any more.
Advent calls us to wake up. To shake off the fetters of habit and routine and to let Christ come alive in our lives once more.
Let us enter into this exciting Advent with a desire to break the shackles and to hear the Lord’s word anew.
Kindest wishes to all Dean Peter