On Being a BusyBody

A member of the community has opined (such a glorious word, ‘opined’) that it is about time I wrote a serious, deeply theological or liturgical post rather than regaling readers with what she clearly regards as mere flim-flams. How dare she, I thought, what a busybody! Of course, most of us love giving others the benefit of our opinion, and provided we do it kindly or wittily or even flatteringly as in the case of my dear sister in Christ, who ended her remarks with ‘You’re not as stupid as you look!’, who could possibly take umbrage? Whether the subject be politics, COVID-19, the Church, or anything else of current moment, we are happy to think we have insights others don’t and are generous in our sharing. Sometimes we can even make our prayer a sustained exercise in telling God how to order things better.

Today’s first Mass reading, Isaiah 45.6-8, 18, 21-2, is perfect for busybodies like us. It reminds us just how small we are in the scheme of things, how imperfect is our grasp of anything. That is not to crush us with a sense of our own insignificance, far from it. It is to allow us to see more clearly the true wonder of our own being and the wonder of God. Salvation comes from God alone, the creator of all that is, and what a God he is!

I am the Lord, unrivalled: there is no other god besides me.  
A God of integrity and a saviour: there is none apart from me.  
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth,  
for I am God unrivalled.

There is a lot to think about in that passage, but one word stands out for me. We hear it again and again during Advent: integrity. There is something about integrity that matters to God and should matter to us. At the root of the word is the idea of wholeness, consistency, and in Isaiah it is closely allied to honesty and salvation. In fact, I think we could claim that integrity provides us with an Advent programme in itself, making it possible for us to receive the gift of salvation offered to us in the Incarnation. People of integrity do not often lead easy lives themselves, but they make life easier for others. We know they can be trusted, that their opinion and advice is worth having, but there are no short-cuts to becoming a person of integrity ourselves. It means hard work, renunciation of self in both large and little things, and perseverance. The busybody flits from one thing or person to another, delighting in the sunshine of attention and sometimes upset; the man or woman of integrity is more like a quiet river, moving steadily but unshowily to the journey’s end. I know which I’d rather be, don’t you?

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A God of Integrity and a Saviour

The title of this blog post is taken from the first reading at Mass today, Isaiah 45.6-8, 18, 21-25. If you have time — and surely, you do have time — read the omitted verses as well. It is a magnificent piece of writing, expressing the power of God, his intimate connection with creation and his tender love towards all that is. I think the astronauts on the International Space Station, whether they be religious or not, must have something of the same sense of wonder and awe as the prophet Isaiah when they look back at the earth and see the beauty and fragility of our slowly-spinning blue globe.

There is a paradox here, as so often. The planet on which we live is torn by war and division, sullied by our abuse of the environment, its beauty equalled only by the brutality of its inhabitants (you and me, to speak plainly). But that is not the whole story. We may be just a little speck of life in the Universe, but a little speck with a glorious destiny. As Isaiah proclaims, our God is a God of integrity who will restore wholeness, a Saviour who will redeem our sin and failure. In these dark days, when the weather is bleak and the news full of stories of death and disaster, it can be hard to maintain hope, but that is preciasely why we are given Advent. These few days invite us to reflect on what it means not to have a Saviour, not to know the mercy of God, and, having reflected, to experience anew the hope which is already fulfilled in Christ. The Promise of the Messiah is for all generations, including our own.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail