The following is actually meant to go in the homilies section, but I couldn’t load the picture up on that page. Happy Advent!

1st Reading: Is. 63:16-17; 64:1.3-8
Psalm: 79:2-3. 15-16. 18-19. R/v.4
2nd Reading: 1 Cor. 1:3-9
Gospel: Mk. 13:33-37

“What I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!”

Well, staying awake certainly wasn’t a problem for shoppers early Friday morning. I’m sure many of you will have seen the scenes broadcast on the BBC – crowds of people piling into shops at 6am, trampling over one another and fighting over a stack of discounted items. Since when did the so-called ‘Black Friday’ become a thing in this country anyway? Just another opportunity for our retailers in this spoilt, possession-possessed, materialist culture.

Many shoppers will have commented on how they ‘needed’ to get out shopping on Friday: “I need that TV, my son really wants it, and I can’t afford the top whack price”, “I need that extra lamp, other side of the living room is just a bit too dark”. Now I know there are exceptions, and that there may have been a few cases of genuine need which may have been met. However, I don’t remember the news reporting a scrum for discounted food.

Need. Really? I was struck by this picture which was posted on Facebook on Friday. Take a look (shows picture).
Define Necessity
Who is truly in need here? Perhaps next time we go to utter the word need in context of something we intend to buy, this image might come to mind. These children – members of the 1 billion who live below the absolute poverty line in the world today, who would have full bellies and content smiles merely feeding off the food we don’t bother to use – they know what need is. They do not want us to buy things for them, a gift at Christmas is not the latest PS4. They want what we already have, food, time, love.

Or do we? We have plenty of food, and yet obesity statistics in this country would suggest that we are enslaved to it. Oh the panic when I realise that the 24 pack of Walkers Crisps might not get us through Christmas Day, that I might actually have to, y’know, walk to the shops for some more. Time: People are so busy these days. Many a discussion I have with people where I tell them that they need to come to Mass every Sunday. A common response is, “oh I try Father, but sometimes it’s just so busy.” I know, I went to Pipps Hill retail park last Sunday to buy a wire for my computer. The place was full, and I was one of the new worshippers at the Church of Spend. Love: what does it say about ourselves if we panic over acquiring products in order to satisfy the wants – not the needs – of another? When I look at this picture, I see freedom and I see slavery. We are slaves, thinking that by acquisition we can acquire the immaterial. This boy is free. He knows his need, and he asks for it.

We need a Saviour, someone who can save us from our deeply sinful self-centredness, who can show us what our true need is, so that we may learn how to truly give. We enter the season of preparation for the coming of God who stripped himself of heaven, who became poor by assuming a human identity, and who lived in poverty with the poorest of the poor. He was the happiest man alive; possessing nothing, he was – and is, literally – the Lord of Creation. His joy was complete when he succeeded in giving everything of himself completely away, on the Cross. Acquiring nothing, he gave up his life, and with that act, ‘bought back’ (Redeemed) the whole of his creation. Please – and I am speaking mainly to myself – let’s not give to others what we feel we must acquire – we already have the gift, given to us when we were conceived, renewed when we took our first breath, and increasing in size every time we give it away. God gave himself to us to show us that we are a gift, and the gift is free. The lesson of divine love is simple: Give away what you have, give away what you are, give away what you know you need deep down. The return is rich indeed, and there’s enough to go round.