For you are our father,
though Abraham does not know us
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our father;
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
Why, O Lord, do you make us stray from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we do not fear you?
Turn back for the sake of your servants,
for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage.
that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence –
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil
– to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge-even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you-so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
Therefore, keep awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
Advent is a time of heightened awareness that invites us to see ourselves as God sees us - insofar as that is possible. Both liturgy and life are pointing us towards the future. Isaiah calls us to confess our sins and hope for better days. Saint Paul's message in Corinthians is confident and upbeat. Mark warns us against complacency, since the end is coming sooner than we expect. Amid such disparity, we might go with the first and third readings, about being prepared for the day of the Lord.
God's Word invites us reassess where our ways may be leading us. This annual reminder that the world as we know it will one day end, is more appropriate during the northern Wintery season, when daylight is shorter and darkness seems to be winning over the light. But the positive side of this is that a new day is dawning, when Christ will come again into our lives with power to save us.
In his letter called The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis encouraged us to remember what we have to be joyful about, as friends of Jesus Christ. Advent would be a good time to take this message to heart and maybe even make a new beginning in our Catholic faith in action. Now is the time to open our hearts and invite the Lord to come more fully into our lives and lead us on.
We begin Advent with a hopeful need for his coming. Our first reading puts this need into words, "We have all withered like leaves and our sins blew us away like the wind." The whirling, withered leaves of autumn are a familiar scene, these past few weeks. Isaiah proposes whirling leaves as symbols of all that is dried up and withered in our lives. But he also calls us to look for a better day. God is still in charge of creation, and our personal lives are under his loving care. We pray with fervour this Advent, "Come, Lord Jesus," and make our own the words of the psalm, "Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has chosen." It is a central plank of our faith that the Lord never abandons His people.
It's interesting to watch the behaviour of people at airports, waiting for loved ones to arrive from a flight? They seem excited, eager for the first appearance of the familiar face, ready with the broad smile of greeting. We too wait for the Lord's coming with anxious eagerness, because we long for his presence.. It is an alert, active waiting - in Advent spirit. In the gospel Jesus says, "Be on guard, stay awake". He wants us to have a clear purpose in life, to mature in our relationship with him and with others, to give time to prayer, and to live with his message in our hearts. That's what our Advent should be like. And while we wait, we can enjoy his promised gifts. St. Paul assures us: "You will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ."
Let us use these coming weeks in a new spirit of hope and awareness, in the spirit of an Advent people.