The Tipping Point
(1st Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 23:37-44)
“I snatched up the book, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: ‘not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.’”
Augustine had heard what sounded like a child’s voice chanting, “Pick it up, read it.” This was no children’s game, and he understood the words to be addressed to him. He picked up the book that lay on a nearby table, which contained Paul’s letters.
At this moment in his life, Augustine was at the tipping point in his conversion. Opening the book at random, he read the words quoted above from Paul’s Letter to the Romans—today’s second reading—and his transformation was complete!
Those words are part of an exhortation which begins: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Jesus’ call to stay awake is likewise a reminder not to dwell in darkness. The Christian is to remain vigilant, ever ready and eager to “walk in the light of the Lord,” as Isaiah says.
The Advent season begins today. It prepares us to celebrate the coming of Christ, the Light of World.
But even in faithful Christian hearts there can remain shadows, places of darkness that hold us back from entering fully into the light. Our Lady of La Salette appeared in dazzling brightness. Mélanie and Maximin were terrified, but she called them, and enfolded them in her radiance. Her words, too, were an invitation to her people to throw off the darkness that enshrouded them.
Like Augustine, perhaps we know what we have to do to follow Christ more perfectly, but remain hesitant, at the tipping point. It might be helpful, in that case, to close our eyes and imagine ourselves standing with the two children, so close to the Beautiful Lady that, as Maximin said, “no one could have passed between her and us.”
As always, she will draw us closer to her Son. In her company, we will be able to make ours today’s psalm refrain: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.