II Sunday of Advent
8 December 2019
Francis Thompson was a 19th century British poet. He wrote one of the most famous poems in history … as such he has had an influence on other British writers like Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien … At 18 his father had made him begin studies in medicine. But, after a few years, he decided to leave school in order to pursue a writing career. He lived on the streets of London, working menial jobs in order to survive – where he became addicted to opium. Yet, during this time he wrote that poem …
The Hound of Heaven …It tells about a God who refuses to abandon even the most determined sinner. The protagonist is madly searching for happiness in all the wrong places all the while being relentlessly pursued by a hunting dog, a hound. The hound is a symbol of God, who loves us too much to give up on us. It begins like this:
- I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
- I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
- I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
- Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
- I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
But at the end, when he has nowhere else to run to, the hound catches up to him and says,
- Rise, clasp My hand, and come!
- …Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
- I am He Whom thou seekest!
- Thou drivest love from thee, who drivest Me.
Can we not hear the same message, maybe not the same words, but the same message in John the Baptist … the Baptist heralds the coming of the Messiah … Behold our God comes – for you and for me. Blind and weak, we are called to rise up, to lift our eyes and turn once again to our God … in all our searching, in all of our duties, in our goings and comings, in all that is sinful and sorrowful and difficult … in all that is ordinary in our lives … John tells us not to hide, not to run, but turn to Him because our God sets things right. This is precisely why He becomes a human being, this is why He comes to us and enters the world of human suffering, this is searches for us … now and even until the end of time … because He sets things right in us… As the people in the time of John, in anticipation of the Messiah, went out to acknowledge their sins, they wanted to be right with God when He made His arrival … so we are to do the same …
Therefore, repentance and confession then become a major part of the Advent season … in these ways, we turn back to our God, we stop, momentarily to regroup, to lift our eyes once again to Him who never stops searching and running after us … and in that glimpse of God’s mercy – made certain and clear in confession – there He makes things right again in us … we walk together again, with our God.
There is, I believe, deep within all of our hearts a desire to be at peace, to be right with God. And this God of ours, He loves us so much that He comes for us, He searches for us … In repentance, in confession, may we have the grace to stop and turn toward Him again – allowing Him to catch up with us and set things right within our hearts.