“Stay awake, because you do not know the day your master is coming!”- is the familiar but always compelling injunction of the Lord at the beginning of Advent. Not only does this First Sunday of Advent begin the Church’s year again, tracing for us through the seasons God’s plan of joy for us, but this year we begin again the Church’s three year cycle of Sunday scriptures. We’ve just completed ‘Year C’ and now we begin again with ‘Year A’. We are to be nourished afresh with the Word of God, particularly this year through the Gospel of Matthew as given to us week by week by the Church our mother. If we have a heart ready and open to the promptings of God’s Spirit, not only will we be able to see the Divine plan of salvation for us in the birth, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus and His continuing mission in the Church, but we will be able to experience it in our daily encounter with the Risen Lord as for instance at Sunday Mass. It was at this moment, the beginning of Year A in the life of the Church three years ago, that Pope Francis promulgated his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, for all of us, lay faithful and clergy alike. The season of increased expectation of the coming of the Lord supported his theme: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ. No one should think this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Exhortation has certainly been widely disseminated and reflected upon, a summons to us all to shake us from the dangers of the terrible and sometimes deadly affliction of spiritual complacency even in the midst of the poor world’s suffering and the havoc caused by sin. Yet where are we in Chiswick? One alarming statistic to have emerged over these same years is our own declining official weekly average of the congregation: 2013, 1,492; 2014, 1,459; 2015, 1,431; 2016, 1,402. This is while the number of baptisms remains constant and the number of First Holy Communions has gone significantly up year on year. Such figures can easily be misread and at best are only useful insofar as they contribute to a fuller picture. However, it is certainly true to say that none of us has wholly answered the Lord’s call unless we are already saints, ready and waiting expectantly for the Lord’s return. Think of the effect for Chiswick if we had 1,402 saints – Teresa of Calcutta, Francis Xavier, Louis and Zelie Martin among so many more! So where, among all the new beginnings, should we begin this Advent? There is ever a need for a deeper conversion of heart. The Pope says it too: “Take a step towards Jesus. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk.”

Posted on November 28, 2016 .