Fr Kieran Gardiner
Church in Horsham
Fr Kieran Gardiner
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Each year Christians prepare to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ with a 4-week season of preparation
called: ‘Advent’. Advent means: coming. So we can say that something or someone is coming. There is certain
inevitability about this, like a sudden death, which we have no control over. But the gospel does indicate that
there are some things which we can do and the most important one is to: “WATCH YOURSELVES” (v.34).
Unfortunately many of us often become pre-occupied with so many peripheral things like presents and fun that
we neglect to watch. But what are we to watch?

Luke writes: “watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened…”

There is an old saying that when the wise person points to the moon, all the fool sees is a finger. In a similar way
we live in a world of amazing phenomena. Only recently there was the total eclipse of the sun in Antarctica. Our
pre-occupation is that we can immerse ourselves in the experience of wonder without ever considering where it
came from or what a particular wonder is pointing to. Then there is the simple wonder of a new day, a new
baby, a new bloom, but we never think of these as gifts from God – just lotto numbers or chance happenings. On
the other hand with all the strife and terrorism around the world today some could be forgiven for thinking that the
end of the world has truly come. And while all this is going on, media commentators here play on the end-of-the-
world theme as losing in the semi-finals of the World Rugby Cup – an incredibly out-of-touch-with oneself view if
ever there was one.

Yes the question of watching oneself appears to be absent to modern consciousness. How does one watch
oneself? It is not merely a question of being a careful and law-abiding person. Luke hints that what is going on in
our hearts is linked to the day of ‘the coming’. To put this into plain religious speak we would say that a healthy
relationship with God involves our hearts as well as our heads. And if our hearts are unhealthy then we will not
be ready for the time when God comes. One of the key challenges of Advent is that in matters of the heart, God
is a factor whether we realize it or not. It seems amazing in our world while people have so many problems in
relationships – the divorce rate is high; there is frequent neglect, violence, and abuse, and an inability to form
lasting relationships – that questions of God and the spiritual dimension of relationships are not addressed more