If only…

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15 December 2017

Every one of us can think of a child, sibling, pupil, fellow student, employee, co-worker or friend that no matter what we do, we can never please. Every opportunity given, punishment remitted or sin forgiven is not accepted for what it is but is somehow reworked by the ‘sufferer’ as further proof of their mistreatment. Usually, with such a person, even the most longsuffering benefactor sadly concludes that he or she cannot win. If only they had listened…

In The Last Battle, the final of his Narnia series of allegorical tales, CS Lewis illustrates the point by having a group of skeptical Dwarfs who have steadfastly refused to side with good or evil in Narnia’s Armageddon, thrown with various other characters into a stable. The virtuous find themselves transported into the most wonderful party with delightful food, drink, and comforts. However, the dwarfs insist that they are in fact in a filthy, dark stable and are eating straw and worse. Every attempt to help is perceived as an assault and even the presence of the Christ figure of Aslan cannot enlighten them. They would rather stick to their story of Hell than delight in the Heaven all around them. The other characters eventually accept Aslan’s advice that nothing more can be done.

In both of today’s readings, we witness Our Lord’s ‘if only’ sadness with his wayward people. In Isaiah, the Lord tells us “If only you had been alert to my commandments, your happiness would have been like a river….” In the Gospel Jesus points that John came in the guise of a rigorous prophet and was rejected as a madman, Jesus taking a different tack is rejected as a drunkard and friend of sinners. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus, speaking of Jerusalem longs to embrace her like a mother hen gathering her chicks “but you were not willing!”

In Advent, the Church offers us an opportunity to listen carefully to God. Are we missing something? Have we been stubbornly misunderstanding what the Lord wants us to comprehend? Today may we genuinely, deeply pause and listen to the Lord. May He never say to you or of me “If only…”

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