Sunday thoughts: December 2018

By Monsignor John Devine

Survivors of the Great War believed that it would be 'the war to end all wars'. It wasn't. And what about the low-level conflicts in our personal lives? Conflicts at work, with neighbours, in our families and between spouses? These serial conflicts are a reminder of our inability to change ourselves. We aren't on a trajectory towards perfection and peace after all. The phrase 'the peace the world cannot give' says it all.

What is it in our nature that leads us to seek our own interests not only over enemies but over those we claim to love? It is the same drive that causes us to pursue self-destructive individual behaviour in spite of good resolutions. Good intentions won't do it. Addictions destroy us and make the lives of those who live with us hell.

Advent provides an opportunity to own our appetite for the destructive streak within. We call this tendency
sin. Our celebration of Mass begins with 'calling to mind our sins'. Sin isn't a popular word. The key words in the Confiteor are 'Through my own fault'. For all my dissatisfaction with the new translation of the Mass the repetition of that phrase three times is a valuable revision. Contemporary society encourages me to project responsibility for my failures on to others. 'Through my own grievous fault' is a counter-cultural admission.

Why not see Advent as an opportunity to opt out of the blame game and own up? The Orthodox Church has practised the Jesus Prayer for centuries: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' It's a good prayer for Advent. It can prepare us to make room for the one who came to save us from ourselves.