Chapter Talk – Second Sunday of Advent – December 4, 2022, cycle-A
“‘But what is this darkness? What do you call it? What is its name?’ The only name it has is ‘potential receptivity’, which certainly does not lack being nor is it deficient, but it is the potential of receptivity in which you will be perfected” (Sermons & Treatises, p.41). These words of Meister Eckhart aptly speak of the interior landscape, the place where this Divine birth is to happen, the place of God’s new incarnation. With this Second Sunday of Advent, we have the voice of John the Baptist speaking within the landscape of the soul: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’. John also cries out: ‘Repent’: change your ways, change your attitude, your mindset, your rigid, narrow perspective, your harsh judgements. With this change, with this ‘repentance’, the veil will lift, and a different, life-giving darkness will be revealed, one called ‘potential receptivity’. We are not able to receive or even perceive the life waiting to bless us when the heart is shut down, hardened, and not ready for the change, the repentance that is needed to receive God’s gift.
We need the Baptist’s voice crying out to remind and encourage us that more awaits beneath the cacophony of distracting or negative voices. He tells us that the “Spirit-filled One” is coming, the One who will transform by the fire of love (Light of the Word, p.15). Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar comments: “He will baptize with fire that is God himself, with the fire of divine love,…fire that will burn away all self-centeredness from souls” (p.16). Christ is coming, the Spirit-filled One, a title used by von Balthasar in his commentary, an apt title revealing the face and heart of the Coming One. He will lead and be guided by the Spirit of Love, a Love that opens the heart larger and wider than the self-righteous morality of the Pharisees and Sadducees whom the Baptist addresses as “brood of vipers”! What von Balthasar is saying is that the morality of the Pharisees and Sadducees is not enough, it must “disappear into the Holy Spirit’s fire of Love” (p.16). Often one’s morality is accompanied by a hardened heart and not the gentle transforming Love that is at the center of Christian faith and the essence of who the Coming One is: the fullness of God’s Love, mercy, compassion. The One whom sinners flock to.
Pope Francis comments in the same vein. He says: “We’re not all right. We must always convert and have the sentiments that Jesus had. The voice of the Baptist still cries in the deserts of humanity today…what are today’s deserts? – closed minds and hardened hearts” (Angelus, December 6, 2015). We need to be aware that we can be ‘moral’, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, and still not have the ‘sentiments that Jesus has’. No wonder, then, for this Second Sunday of Advent we have the Baptist’s voice calling us to ‘repent’, to repent from this moralistic mind-set, which is not who the Christ of God is. His ways are so much broader and deeper than ours. His horizon is unconditional love, salvation offered to everyone.
Called to ‘prepare the way’ with a changed, more open, tender heart, one more like that of Jesus. Let us remember in our prayer, that beneath all the clamoring voices there is the fertile ground beautifully called by Eckhart as ‘potential receptivity’. There we wait, awake and attentive, for already the stirrings of new, incarnate Life are present.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess