Saturday, December 10, 2011

Make Us Turn to You

December 10, 2011

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship. Sirach 48:10-11

"Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands." Matthew 17:10-12


Save us, O Lord, carry us back, rouse your power and come.

Rescue your people, show us your face, bring us back.

O Shepherd of Israel hear us. Return and we shall be saved.

Arise, O Lord, hear our cries, O Lord; bring us back!

How long will you hide from your people? we long to see your face,

give ear to us, draw near to us, Lord God of hosts!

Turn again, care for your vine, protect what your right hand has planted,

Your vineyards are trampled, uprooted and burned. Come to us, Father of Might!

("Save Us, Oh Lord" by Bob Dufford, performed by the St. Louis Jesuits)


Dom Basil Pennington has several books written and talks recorded on the Rule of St. Benedict. In "Listen With Your Heart," he uses an expression over and over again, an expression that rolls off the tip of his tongue quite frequently as you listen to him at least with your ears. "We are all poor, weak, stupid sinners."

Part of maturity is coming to the realization to accept the fact that we are all poor, weak, stupid sinners, he explains.

That idea came to mind as I was reflecting on the Psalm today. Because we are all poor, weak, stupid sinners, we behave like a very poor image of God. Jesus was the perfect image of God. The easiest way for redemption might be if we just throw up our hands and surrender. Lord, make us turn to you. Don't make us battle with the forces of temptation. The forces of sin in the world are so strong and we are all poor, weak, stupid sinners. Abbot Pennington tells us so. Do not make us convert. Change is hard and we are weak. Just wave your healing hands and force us to turn to you.

Ah! That would be so easy for God and for us. Yet that is not the path of Advent. That is not the path of the cross. That is not the path of life. We have to choose our path. Piety puts us in the right frame of mind. Study helps us find the map to where we should go. But only our action -- action rooted in our free will -- will help us turn toward our God (whom we need) and away from the world and all we do not need -- a world filled with poor, weak, stupid sinners and all of the wondrous gifts we have from the Lord.

God is always there for us like the father in the Prodigal Son story. He will protect what the right hand has planted. Yet we are free to stray and get down in the weeds. We can take our inheritance and run off to a foreign land. God won't make us turn back to him. Yet at the first sign that we are accepting His holy invitation and coming home, he will rush out and greet us.


We are nearly half way through with Advent. Have you put on the spirit of Psalm 80? If we make that a part of our mind, our heart and our action, then we are taking the first steps of the Prodigal daughters and sons to turn toward that little town of Bethlehem and set out to complete our census. Who know what will happen when we get there.