Sermon 313: 1st. Sunday of Advent (B)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I give thanks to my God that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful, be alert, you do not know when the lord of the house is coming”.
Those two snippets are the essential of our readings from St. Paul and then Our Blessed Lord’s Gospel message. And our last four Sunday Gospel readings have been warnings and/or exhortations of a very similar sort.
Now that is no criticism of Our Lord’s words, for His proclamation of divine wisdom for our salvation was done over a period of time, relatively short of course, but to many different individuals, in a Jewish society ‘stratified’ between radicals and traditionals, between the vociferous with plenty of time for trouble and the disinterested with no time for anything but just living, between the humble – the unique fruit of generations of right living in covenant with the God of Israel -- and the self-seeking career servers, all of them with differing hopes and expectations, fears and agendas, and in circumstances of constant flux.
No, dear People I am rather wondering what was in Mother Church’s mind – so to speak – when choosing today’s readings for our Sunday celebration. One might possibly say that I am wondering what individual ‘bright spark’ decided on today’s readings after the series of readings we have been having from St. Matthew’s Gospel for the last four Sundays. Any such thoughts, however, would have been nothing more than the somewhat irreverent expression of a preacher’s frustration at being faced with several basically similar texts and wanting to make his sermon in some measure both spiritually instructive and interesting.
However, Mother Church is usually able to find and call upon God-guided disciples of her Lord and Saviour, individually unknown and unpraised, to save her rightful reputation of wisdom in her choice of liturgical texts: texts manifesting both divine (the Scriptures) and human (her Latin hymns and saintly commentaries) wisdom and beauty. And we can see that today with the reading given us from the prophet Isaiah which serves to most providentially to guide us into an appropriate appreciation of both today’s Gospel passage and second reading:
You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer You are named forever.
Why do You let us wander, O LORD, from Your ways
and harden our hearts so that we fear You not?
Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down.
Would that we were mindful of You in our ways!
Behold, You are angry, and we are sinful;
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
There is none who calls upon Your name, who rouses himself to cling to You, for You have hidden Your face from us and delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay and You the potter:
we are all the work of Your hands.
There we have our Christmas longing contained in Isaiah’s words, ‘Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down’: but isn’t the context changed?
‘We are sinful; all our good deeds are like polluted rags‘: could all our rightly praised workers and carers say that of themselves? Can we say that of ourselves? And yet that is infallibly true in so far as Isaiah’s subsequent words are also true:
There is none who calls upon Your name, who rouses himself to cling to You.
Do you demur? But didn’t Jesus Himself most solemnly declare (John 16:8):
When He (the Holy Spirit) comes He will convict the world in regard to sin, because they do not believe in Me.
Oh yes, Dear People of God, those words of Isaiah are so pertinent for our appropriate longing, praying, for Jesus’ coming to us this Christmas; and how they have confirmed in my eyes the divine wisdom of Mother Church in her liturgy. Our liturgical inheritance is a gift transcending time, a gift not ‘coffined-in’ to present events and current attitudes-and-expectations. Isaiah was a prophet for his times and ours: he interpreted for Israel the ‘signs of the times’. Today we do not have much guidance, help, for God’s People about ‘panvirussing-sin’ and our world’s -- and Mother Church’s -- present sufferings and distress. Is there any connection? Mother Church does, at times, tell governments how better to govern and mostly they reject or ignore what they consider to be her ‘interference’; but she is presently saying very little about what is her own unique ‘business’: our Christian and Catholic understanding of the supremely significant event of our times.
This Advent we centre our hearts and minds on Jesus’ coming among us at Christmas .... not just the original one in Bethlehem .... but on the 25th. December 2020! What is our attitude to be?
Preparing, with the world, to have as good a meaning-less-celebration as possible? Or, in refreshed awareness of our spiritual state, to long whole-heartedly for Jesus to come as our whole LIFE, our only HOPE, and our eternal SALVATION.
Come, Lord Jesus, we need You, come, Lord Jesus, our unbelieving world needs You! And in such need, may St. Paul’s words provide us with a modicum of present consolation and hope that only You Yourself can fulfil in Your Coming:
As you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, He (God the Father) will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus (Christ).
God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.