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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ Advent: Transition to a New World

Advent – a season of prophets, those heralds of change and renewal. It is filled with the voices and figures of Isaiah, Baruch, Zephaniah and Jeremiah from the Jewish Testament. We encounter the great figures of a new world calling us to transformation and change, a world in which the Kingdom of God has come near.

The season is also marked by surprising and unlikely figures of the New Testament. We encounter a hermit coming out of the desert wilderness, booming out a call for a change of heart. We meet a young Jewish woman, with her yet to be married husband, together facing the challenge of a new birth.

The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament figures were ordinary people who found themselves called to extraordinary and surprising deeds of change and transformation. They might have been ordinary persons like ourselves and those around us, but they came serving as the voice and finger of God among us, announcing God’s loving outreach to us all. This outreach was to mark the world made new that has been God’s dream for all creation and all peoples.

The prophetic voice of Isaiah captures the character of this new world. It will be a world that reflects the face of God. Filled with spirit of God, it will be a world of wisdom and justice. It will treat all with equity and have special for the weak and the vulnerable, none shall be left out or cast aside. The result will be a sense of awe in the remarkable gift of God’s life-giving presence among them. From all of this comes the greatest of our heart’s desire – peace and harmony (Is.11:1-10).

In John the Baptist, we see a New Testament prophet, one who announces that the Kingdom of God is near and we play a part in nurturing it (Matt.3:1-12). For John, the fundamental step is clear: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The work of preparing for this kingdom, nurturing it among us is not about future. It is now, nurturing what God has already been planted among us and nurturing is done in the many ordinary ways of bringing the face of God to one another with compassion and love, justice, equity and ultimately, peace for all.

John, that hermit coming forth from the desert eventually encountered the face of God in Jesus as they met at the Jordan and Jesus accepted to be baptized by John with the waters of repentance. Such repentance is not about saying “sorry”. It is much more than this, that nurtures the Kingdom of heaven among us. The truer, deeper word is “metanoia”, a Greek word for a “change of heart”, a conversion and turning around of life, leaving behind the old and taking on the new.

It does begin as a personal conversion, but does not end there. We are called to a conversion as family, as community, as church and in this way revealing the face of Jesus the Christ in real terms and action to one another and to all peoples.

Such conversion or “metanoia” was John’s call for repentance. The whole message and mission of Jesus the Christ, was this call to us all, to all humanity – to bring the reality of the God’s reign to all peoples. It means turning around a world that is called to be the place of God and marked by justice, equity and peace, and built on compassion and love – the face of God among us.

Only when our world, our church, our communities and families accept this metanoia, will the reign of God be complete. It is a task, but also a great hope.

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