Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Barron and "The Law of the Gift:" Become Self Only By Gift of Self


by Bishop Robert Barron

We all know that Lent is a penitential season, a time when Christians get in touch with their sins. But Advent, too, has a penitential dimension, and for a very good reason. Advent is the season during which we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Savior. But there is no point in having a Savior unless we are deeply convinced that there is something we need to be saved from.

This kind of awareness is at the core of the twelve-step process for those suffering from addictions—one is helpless, powerless, and has hit bottom.

The prophet Isaiah gives us a great focus for our meditation in Advent, for he offers us a whole series of images and pictures to describe our sinful condition. Remember, the Biblical authors, for the most part, were not systematic thinkers; they were poets and so they use poetic language. Take this wonderful and terrible line: “all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind” (Isaiah 65:5). When we have become deeply aware of our sin, we know that we can cling to nothing in ourselves, that everything we offer is, to some degree, tainted, impure. We can’t show our cultural, professional, and personal accomplishments to God as though they are enough to save us.

As Isaiah says, we are like withered leaves. God’s grace is the life-force and when we are divorced from it, our lives wither up. We become like the field of dry bones in Ezekiel or the Prodigal Son wandering in a land of famine. Here is where the law of the gift comes into play: when you are lifeless, make of your life a gift, and you will come back to life.

Can you identify with any, some, or all of these images? If so, that means you are moving into the Advent spirit, awaiting a Savior. As our most famous Advent song says, “O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.”

When we are aware that we are waiting for the Son of God, then we are ready for the hope of one last image: “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”

Your life is not about you. You are being shaped by a higher power for his purposes. You are waiting for the potter to do his work.

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