Sunday, December 6, 2020



Second Sunday In Advent B
December 6, 2020

Spirituality of Advent and the rule of subtraction– by Deacon Bill Gervais

Lectionary # 5- Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Responsorial Psalm: 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14;  2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

Recently I read a cartoon that depicted Bart Simpson, the eldest child of Homer and Marge Simpson. He says: Christmas is not about special treats, food, and presents, the true meaning of Christmas is about the birth of Santa.

Cute story. Sadly Bart’s conclusion reflects what a great deal of people think today. While many things have changed since the days of John the Baptist, his message can be summed up saying:  Do not put your hope in things that are temporary. As Saint Peter said in the second reading, those things will dissolve; material things are short-lived, your hope is found in striving for holiness and godliness.

The wisdom that Saint Peter shared with us is best summed up by Albert Einstein who after reflecting on the words “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ as stated in the American Declaration of Independence. he said: “pursuing happiness is for idiots.”

His comment is quite startling but when asked by his audience what they should pursue,, he said: “You should pursue truth. You should pursue beauty. Not running around trying to be happy, happy, happy, buying things, doing things that will make you happy, happy, happy. Because they’re never going to make you happy. But if you pursue truth, if you pursue the things that are really what your own hearts hunger for — love, forgiveness, compassion — these are the truths that are worth laying your life down for.”

And that is what John the Baptist is asking of us, pursuing things for your happiness is a dead-end, but Saint Peter and John the Baptist remind us look to the One who is to come, Jesus, who comes to give you love and who  teach us in word and example, how to live love, self sacrificing to the point of death.

But this call to holiness and self-sacrificing calls for a complete change in thinking.

The key to this change in thinking is found in the Christmas classic movies – one we all know and likely will watch over the Christmas season, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

As you will recall the main character, George Bailey, sacrifices his dreams, his pursuit of happiness is postponed, in order to help his community, Bedford Falls,  to the point where he feels life has passed him by. In despair he ends up on an icy bridge on Christmas Eve where he wants to end it all.

But heaven intervenes and assigns a second-class angel, Clarence Odbody to help him. Responding to George Bailey’s wish that he had never been born the angel grants him his wish. From this perspective George Bailey then sees what the world would have been like had he never been born. All the things he treasured in life, Mary, his children and friends, and what their lives and the social structure of Bedford Falls would be like without him.

As we know in the end things turned out okay. But through this experience George Bailey discovered that his self-sacrificing love for his community and family were not in vain, it brought many benefits and blessings to him and the community. But he didn’t see this until he subtracted his presence from the world.

So this Advent season George Bailey is our modern-day John the Baptist. He invites us to look at our life differently. So often, we take so many of our blessings for granted, so instead of counting your blessings, “subtract them.”

We do this by using our imagination where we take the time to  select any one of our blessings – family, job, friends, our gift of faith,  the roof over our head, etc - and reflect on what life would be like if that one blessing was subtracted from our life, family and community. The result will surprise you!

As you begin to appreciate the blessings we have received, we might be surprised how our blessings have also been blessing to others.

Spirituality of Advent is more about subtraction than adding a list of things that we believe will give us happiness.

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