Ready or not, we enter into the new liturgical year with the season of Advent, in which we await and prepare for the coming of our Savior. The word Advent- means ‘coming’. So, in this season we not only remember Jesus’s first coming, but also, as we heard in the Gospel, we are called to keep watch for when our Messiah will come back, a second and final time, at an unknown day or hour. Perhaps it is helpful to share with you what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about what we are celebrating in this season. Paragraph 524 says, "When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation of the Savior's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming". Therefore, by remembering and entering into the preparation for the first coming, we are renewing and increasing our desire and preparation for the second coming of our Lord.
To help us enter into this season, I want to reflect primarily on our 1st reading from the Prophet Isaiah. This is such an important prophecy because it is the only time in the Old Testament that God is referred to as Father. There are 2 main questions that come to mind in our reflection on this reading. These questions I will answer for our consideration as we enter into this Advent season. Those questions are: Why God allows us to wander. And why God makes us wait.
Our 1st reading from Isaiah begins, “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander from your ways and harden our hearts?”. Let’s be honest, you and I so often wander away from God, perhaps you are doing so right now, by already daydreaming during Mass and this homily. Aha, I got your attention. We all wander away and stray from God, and his will for our lives. I remember when I lived with my parents we had a dog. He would try and run out whenever someone opened the front door. I think he just wanted to have the freedom to explore, to see what was outside of his known and confined domain of the house. Of course, we tried to prevent him from running out- because we knew that if he did he could get lost, or worse get run over, because he did not know what possible danger he was entering into. OK, selfishly also, I did not want to go chasing after him, becausewhen he did run out, I was the one who had to get on my bike and try and lead him back. But, it was only my father, with his deep stern voice, who could make him stop in his tracks and come back.
Perhaps we wander away from God because we want to explore on our own, we want to have the freedom to do what we want to do. And God allows us to wander off, he lets us seemingly get lost and get ourselves into trouble, he lets our hearts become hardened the more we distance ourselves from Him. Like the Prophet Isaiah, have your ever questioned why God allows us to do that? I think Isaiah answered it in the first line- “You, Lord, are our father and redeemer”. He allows us to wander off so that we will come to know deep down for ourselves that we are His son or daughter. He is our Father, we his beloved child. And although we may want to act as our own master, and do whatever we want to do. The truth is, we don’t know what lies around the corner, we don’t know what danger and trouble we’ll get ourselves into. And when we do get in trouble, we need to learn that we cannot save ourselves. I think the story about the Prodigal Son, the father gives his youngest son his share of the inheritance knowing that he will go off and squander it. He allows him to stray far from him so that he would know what he is missing and come back. He allows him to stray so that he would learn that being outside of the Father’s house means ending up living worse than the pigs. God allows us to wander from Him so that we will recognize that He is our Father and Redeemer. Do you know that? In what areas do you still need to know that? That is what this season of Advent is about- coming to know we have a loving Father and Savior, and growing in holiness.
I ask you this week to reflect on your life and the choices you make, how do you wander from God? How is your heart hardened? Do you feel like, as our 1st reading recounts: “Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind”. Maybe it is a particular sin that you tend to commit over and over again. Perhaps you have stopped praying because you are too busy or because you feel as if God is distant and you don’t get anything out of it. Or maybe your prayer has been stagnant and you’re just kind of going through the motions- just saying the words. Wherever you find yourself right now in your spiritual life, perhaps we all have felt like Isaiah at times.
Fed up by all the half-hearted praying, tired of all the wandering of the people. Remembering all the mighty acts God did for His wayward people of the Exodus, Isaiah is praying for a renewal. He prays, “Return for the sake of your servants. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you did awesome deeds we could not have hoped for. No ear has ever heard, no eye has ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for you”. Are you tired of wandering, your half-hearted praying and living, have you ever wanted God to just hurry up and make you holy already? I know I have. Have you ever wanted God to hurry up and do mighty acts in your life to save you in a particular situation? The point is, my brothers and sisters, God has done mighty acts that no eye has seen or ear had ever heard before. God has already torn the heavens and come down to earth to redeem all people! God has already done everything possible to save his people. That is exactly what we are preparing to renew in this Advent season.
But notice the last part of that verse- No ear has heard, no eye has seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for you”. For some reason, God desires us to wait. Galatians tells us that “in the fullness of time, God sent His Son”. Even though all the prophets and people of the Old Testament were wanting and waiting for the Messiah to come for thousands of years, yet He came at the perfect time.
I’m sure you, like me, have been impatient at times and haven’t wanted to wait for God. Raise your hand if you have ever had to wait on God before He answered your prayers. Have you ever reflected why he makes us wait- why waiting is for our good? I reflected on some possible reasons. First, waiting causes our desire and longing to increase. Our anticipation and excitement increase if we have to wait. Think about all the people waiting for the doors to open at the retail stores on Black Friday, if they didn’t have to wait- their excitement, anticipation, and longing wouldn’t have increased. And don’t we all need to grow in our desire and longing for God? Secondly, waiting purifies our desire. We so often have a cause-effect kind of attitude, we put in this coin and we expect that to come out. We pray for this need or desire, and so we expect God to give what we ask for. However, and get this, this is so important. God wants and deserves to be loved and longed for-for His own sake, not for what He gives us. So often when we find ourselves in a bind, all we really want is God to save us out of that difficulty. But we aren’t really wanting God at all, but only what God can give us; we aren’t really loving God as Father as much as we are using the all-powerful God. But God wants to purify us to desire the Giver, not just the gift. So waiting purifies our intention to want and love God- for His own sake. And isn’t that purification the purpose of our entire lives?
A third and final reason I reflected on as to why God makes us wait for Him to do a mighty act to save us, is because the waiting is really preparing ourselves to receive. We who are stubborn and have hardened our hearts by our waywardness and sin, we have to be prepared to receive. Recall the last verse of our 1st reading, “You, O Lord, are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter, we are the work of your hands”. Stick with that image for a second. If a potter has clay that has hardened, like our hearts are hardened, water is needed to soften it so that he can work with and mold it. But if a potter quickly dumps a whole lot of water all at once on it, it’s not going to be as good. But if the potter is patient and trickles a few drops of water at a time, and then works and lets the water penetrate the hardened clay, then after a while all the clay becomes soft and can be molded as the potter sees fit.
So, my brothers and sisters, may this Advent season be a time of fruitful waiting- may we increase our desire, and may our loving Father purify and mold us more and more into his perfect children.BACK TO LIST