The First Sunday of Advent
The First Sunday of Advent
Is. 63: 16b-17; 64: 1, 3b-8 1Cor. 1: 3-9 Mk.13: 33-37
To allow God find us, it is important that we progressively grow in our self-awareness and self-responsibility.
a). God’s search for human beings:
Advent is the season in which we celebrate God’s search for human beings. As much as we, human beings, search for God, God also searches for us. In fact God’s search for human beings is manifold more intense and passionate than our search for God.
The first reading is trying to answer the question why God is in search of human beings. The primary reason is to redeem them. The very first verse of the first reading reads: “O LORD, you are our father; our Redeemer from of old is your name.” It is an undeniable fact that we human beings, are vulnerable and weak. In the name of seeking our happiness, we ruin our lives. In fact, Isaiah points out that it is God, who makes human beings stray away from His ways, and hardens the heart of human beings so that don’t fear Him (Vs. 17a).
It does not mean that it is God who makes us sin. Rather because of His abundance of love towards us, He allows us, like the prodigal father, to go away from Himself and immerse ourselves in material pleasures so that we may understand the futility of seeking happiness in material things.
There is also another point which Isaiah seems to communicate here. At no point of our life, we are completely away from God. Even if we commit sin, we should understand that we do so because of the freedom, offered to us by the providential care and unconditional love of God. However what we choose does affect us. We are adversely affected by our evil deeds and sin: “We have all become like one who is unclean….. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” says Isaiah. However, God is always there to come down and protect us, redeem us. In fact, today’s readings as well as our Christian faith tell us that it is God alone who can save us.
The first reading invites us to recognize the fact that God alone can be the answer to our problems and misery. If we try to answer our problems and misery with money, power, position etc., we will become ultimate failures. Such people further entangle themselves and aggravate the intensity of their problems. (It does not mean that we should not look for them, rather the point is that they should be secondary aspects in our lives.)
b). Allowing God to find us.
In order to redeem us, it is true God is in search of us. But that is not enough! It is much more important that we allow God to find us. It demands a lot of openness and self-emptying on our part. We might be familiar with the story of a man who ended up in an uninhabited island due to shipwreck. He managed to prolong his life with the help of some roots and fruits, available in the island. He also managed to build a small hut for himself. Every day he would wait on the shores, expecting that someday a ship would come that side and save him. But nothing of that sort happened. One day it so happened that his hut got fire and after sometime the captain of a ship, which was travelling by that side, happened to note the smoke and came near the shore. But this man, who was longing for liberation, hid himself in the bushes, since he thought that people in the ship might not like him since he was unshaven, dirty and clumsy.
It is nothing but the story of every human being. Each one of us longs for liberation from misery and wretchedness of this life. When God comes forward to help us, we hide ourselves from his presence. Like Adam and Eve, who tried to run away from the Presence of God and hide themselves, we too do so. We have got many hiding place. Some hide themselves in money, others in power and position, and still others in guilt-conscience… The list goes on.
Today’s readings point out that there could be two ways by which we can allow God to find us and present ourselves in front of Him. The first way is through developing a greater awareness in us. Awareness is something that helps us to identify the blockages and baggage that we have created for ourselves and which make us to be closed towards God. We are called to become aware of all these things and present ourselves totally in front of God, so that God, who is searching for us, might find us.
The second way is by being responsible towards the spiritual riches that have been given to us. In today’s second reading, St. Paul says that we are rich in all speech and knowledge of every kind and we are not lacking in any spiritual gift. The gospel points out that the owner left his house and property with his servants. It was expected of the servants to be responsible towards the riches, handed over to them. The one who was responsible is considered to be a watchful servant. Similarly God has handed over us His spiritual riches and resources and He expects us to conduct ourselves responsible towards them.
Loving Father, while we thank you for your intense search for us, help us to identify and break all those things that prevent us from recognizing you, Amen