Second Sunday of Advent – Gospel reading – Mark 1:1-8
John the Baptist emphasized the vital importance of repentance – of straightening our path and preparing ourselves to meet Christ. He proclaimed that Christ will baptize us in the Holy Spirit, meaning that the Holy Spirit will search our hearts and craft our souls into who our creator fully intended us to be. It is not a repentance of little tweaks and minor corrections in the way we live, but a repentance of total transformation.
This is hard work. It involves a level of self-awareness that is sometimes painful. It involves giving things up that we may be so attached to that we’re not sure if we’ll still be standing when they’re gone. And it involves finding the path that God is calling each of us to follow – by recognizing his voice in our lives and choosing to listen – to choose the voice that loves, rather than all the other voices calling us every which other way.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis describes this so eloquently that the rest of this post will be quoted from him. In the chapter titled Is Christianity Hard or Easy?, he writes, “Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You… Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’
C.S. Lewis goes on to say that while this seems to be almost impossible, “it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead… We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way – centered on money or pleasure or ambition – and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs… If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.”
“That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and fretting; coming in out of the wind.”
“We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through… This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else… the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs.”
“What we have been told is how we men can be drawn into Christ – can become part of that wonderful present which the young Prince of the universe wants to offer to His Father – that present which is Himself and therefore us in Him. It is the only thing we were made for. And there are strange, exciting hints in the Bible that when we are drawn in, a great many other things in Nature will begin to come right. The bad dream will be over: it will be morning.”