18th December – Fourth Sunday of Advent (A)

My homily for today was based on last Tuesday’s article – the prayer of St Francis “Lord, who are you and who am I”? This question may seem very abstract and irrelevant to everyday life but if it was so important to St Francis, it must be relevant for us too.

“Lord who are you?” is a reminder of the core message of the gospel that God is Father. We are invited to share in Jesus’ own relationship with his Father. We have to know, be in human contact with somebody, in order to have a relationship with them. The good news is that this is possible with our heavenly Father through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the sacraments, prayer and of course faith, hope and charity.

Regarding “Who am I?” there are so many things that lay claim on our identity, that which gives the fullest meaning and value to our lives: namely, our family connections, our vocation, where we are on the social ladder, etc. Yet as St Francis said, our deepest identity will only be known when we stand before God and allow him to speak to us.

What might that word be? Perhaps it is closely based on 3 phrases from St Paul in the second reading.

  • We BELONG to Jesus. We are sheep of his flock. He is the Good Shepherd. Local sheep farmers have their own unique mark on their sheep to distinguish them from their neighbour’s Jesus’ indelible mark on us is the sign of the cross received at our baptism.
  • We are “God’s beloved”, beloved sons and daughters, just like we are/were beloved sons and daughters of our natural father, the apple of his eyes. It is unmerited, just because we are his children.
  • We are “called to be saints”, we have a home in heaven with a suite reserved for us by name. As Jesus said in the Last Supper “I go before you to prepare a place so that where I am, you too may be.” All we have to do is be faithful to God’s plan for our lives.

If we are to experience and thoughtfully participate in this wonderful reality, we need to give time to God in silent prayer. An ideal place for this is in our weekly holy hour before Jesus truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. There is no better place to pray the prayer given by the retreat director: “Let your God love you.” Be silent / Be still / Alone / Empty / Before your God.  Say nothing / Ask nothing / Be silent / Be still. Let your God / Look upon you / That is all. God knows and understands / God loves you with an enormous love / Wanting only / to look upon you with love. Quiet / Still / Be. Let your God love you. (Poem by Edwina Gatley.)

So to sum up with the prayer of St Francis: Who is God? He is our loving Father. Who am I? I am a beloved son/daughter.

Perhaps this can be artistically represented in the image of the Prodigal Son.