Sunday, December 07, 2014

The value or worthlessness of human life.

Picking up where I left off last week, here are some thoughts on the Second Sunday of Advent from Jesuit Father Alfred Delp (1907-1945):
The value or worthlessness of human life, its profundity or shallowness, depends very much on the conditions of our existence. Life ought to preserve its real stature and not dissipate itself in superficial interests or empty sterility. Western civilisation is responsible for much misconception, foreshortening of views, distortion and so on both in public and personal life. We are the products of that faulty outlook. Distortion is a danger inherent in man's nature to which we as a generation seem to have been more than ordinarily prone.

Moments of grace, both historical and personal, are invariably linked with an awakening and restoration of genuine order and truth. That, too, is part of the meaning of Advent. Not merely a promise, but conversion, change. Plato would have said preparation for the reception of truth. St. John more simply called it a change of heart. The prayers and the message of Advent shake a man out of his complacency and make him more vividly aware of all that is transmutable and dramatic in his life.

. . . The encounter with God is not of man's choosing either in regard to the place or the manner of it. Therefore the central portion of the message [of the Second Sunday of Advent] runs: 'Blessed is he that shall not be scandalised in me.' That is to say God is approaching but in his own way. The man who insists that his salvation shall depend on his own idea of what is right and proper is lost. It means further that the starting point of the movement towards salvation is the point at which contact is made with Christ. The way to salvation in the world is the way of the Saviour. There is no other way. We have to see this clearly and constantly affirm it.

. . .

So this Sunday we must again fold our hands and kneel humbly before God in order that his salvation may be active in us and that we may be worthy to call upon him and be touched by his presence. The arrogance so typical of modern man is deflated here; at the same time the icy loneliness and helplessness in which we are frozen melts under the divine warmth that fills and blesses us.
Though Father Delp composed his Advent meditations nearly seventy years ago, the distorted outlook that he noticed among his contemporaries is still very much with us. Convinced of our own self-sufficiency, we often fail to realize our own need for God's help; as Father Delp notes, the terms of our salvation are set by God alone. Even so, in our blindness we can often fail to perceive the ways in which God comes into our lives and offers the gift of His loving presence to us.

As we continue on our journey through Advent, perhaps we would do well to reflect on God's unexpected and unsought interventions into our seemingly independent and self-directed existence. As we do this, I pray that we may have the courage to become more open to Christ's presence in our midst. AMDG.


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