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1st Sunday of Advent
1st Sunday of Advent
Prayer of longing for God's coming...
That first reading is a cry from the very depths of the human heart, surely one that we can all identify with. It is also a cry of great insight and wisdom. It recognises our failings our sins, our responsibility, it is honest, we have rebelled against God and our sins have damaged not just us but those around us, our family those we love, even the society in which we live. At the same time it asks for an explanation, why has God let this happen, why has he let us sin and make such a mess of things, and it contains that great prayer of longing 'Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down. At your presence the mountains would melt'. If we fee like this even if only sometimes it is a sign that our spiritual life is alive and growing.
... and God's response
The response to this cry is the cross. On the cross Our Saviour Jesus Christ shouldering the effects and consequences of all sin cries out a similar question: "My God my God why have you forsaken me", and answers the longing prayer 'Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down. At your presence the mountains would melt'. Yet he answers it in an utterly unexpected way. Not in mountain melting glory but in humble resignation to and obedience of the Father's will on the cross, in the quietness of the resurrection and in placing the good news of salvation, the word of God, above all in the Blessed Eucharist into the hands of his apostles and disciples.
I don't ask why has he not revealed himself to the whole world, and made everyone worship and obey him, I just observe that he has chosen to work through his Church, through his apostles, their successors and us. Thus St Paul's prayer, I thank him for all the graces you have received. For your teachers and preachers, the gifts of the spirit to keep you steady and blameless while you are waiting.
Meaning of the time of expectant waiting...
Waiting is the key. The answer, the response given on the cross has yet to be fully revealed. Holy Mass, the Blessed Eucharist always looks forward, "we proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again." The Eucharist is a celebration a joyful gathering of the Church but it has to be as well a time of silence, for watching and waiting. This is the heart of Advent. A season of expectant waiting. As Jesus teaches in the gospel "this time of waiting is like a man going abroad, he has left his servants in charge, each with his own task. But he is coming back. So be ready be awake. Keep watch. Those who spend time before the Blessed Sacrament watching, waiting will understand this above all.
The voice in the first reading had repented and looked longingly to God and hoped for him to act. The answer of the cross has abolished the power of sin over us but not our ability to choose sin to give it power over us. Part of our wakefulness, part of our task part of waiting has to be turning from sin. The longer we postpone facing our sins the more likely we will die with them on us or the Lord will come. Each time we turn away to sin we back away from Our Lord, in consequence we grow weaker, the devil is closer, our sins don't seem so bad, we end up saying I have no sins. I never go to confession. Thank you Jesus but that's one of your seven sacraments I don't need. All the readings today ask each of us when did you last go to confession. The whole of Advent begs us to take to heart that first reading. To embrace that presence which melts the mountains and which comes to us through the Church and above all through her Sacraments. Go to confession this Advent.