Homily 1st Sunday of Advent 3rd December 2023
There is a sense of warning to the words of scripture this weekend. In the Gospel, the words of Christ, “Wake up, stay alert.” And in the words of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading, the lament of a people who had let themselves become too careless and self-satisfied. So that the only imagery left to describe the people was dried up leaves, blown away by the wind.
When the Hebrews had come out of the desert so many years before, they had done so with the clearest picture humankind had ever had of what it means to be God’s people. An entirely new bond had been forged between themselves and God. A bond of hope based not so much on what they saw right there in front of them, but rather a hope based on what was promised. What was yet to be.
So, a sense of incompleteness and an acceptance of it. That was part of the newness of revelation in the Old Testament. To be human meant to feel a kind of joyful hunger. Hunger because it was a real need and, until it was satisfied, no one could ever be complete. And joyful, because indeed it would be satisfied.
That joyful hunger is one that is easily lost. And when that happens – to a nation or a gathering of people or an individual – something in them dies. They lose purpose and resolve.
The words of Isaiah call to us today as surely and as clearly as they did to the Hebrews. Perhaps the best way for any of us to observe this Advent season would be to make of it a time to re-awaken our awareness of just how deep is our need for the fulfilment that only God can offer.
And that must mean a firm resolve to purify our lives of anything that distracts us from that call, anything that dulls our spirit, makes us victims of the pressures of the moment.
I don’t think it is too difficult to tell, really, when the spark has begun to dim, and we have begun to be frightened by our incompleteness, rather than called by it.
Once such sign is a lack of patience with the natural pace of our lives. An unwillingness to wait confidently for our own growth, for God to fill up what we lack. Children rushing into situations and relationships years beyond their abilities. Adults impatient for success, working too hard, plunging themselves deeper into frustration.
So, waiting hopefully to be made full. An awareness of the fact that we are indeed dependant on God, and that it is good to be that way.
As the psalmist writes, “Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face, and we shall be saved.”