First Reading: Isaiah 63: 16b – 17, 19b, 64: 2 -7
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 3 – 9
Gospel: Mark 13: 33 – 37.
As we begin another liturgical year, the readings pick up right where we left off last week: focusing
on the second coming of Christ. Whereas in the gospel, Mark presents Jesus issuing a stern warning
(“What I say to you I say to all: Watch!”), the prophet Isaiah sets a different tone: “Oh, that you
would rend the heavens and come down.” It seems as though Isaiah is reminding God of God’s
attributes, as though he were telling God something new: You are mighty, you are our father, you
are the potter, you are our redeemer.
Yet throughout the reading the prophet also asks for mercy, forgiveness, and for a swift coming in
glory. To me, it sounds like he is saying: “You will always forgive us, … right?” Or: “You are a
father who wouldn’t forget his children. … aren’t you?” It’s a curious blend of praise and petition,
assurance and supplication.
Yet I think that this describes our life with God quite well. We come together as a church to sing
God’s praises and to adore God with all kinds of titles: Father, Redeemer, Lord, Savior, Shepherd,
and so forth. And in almost the same breath we are so bold as to ask God to act in those ways: Be a
Redeemer. Be a loving shepherd. Be patient with us.
This is not wrong. In fact, Jesus Christ himself told us to pray this way. “When you pray, say ‘Our
Father … Hallowed by thy name … give us our daily bread….’” Even though our Father knows
what we need before we ask, it is right and just that we should lift up our hearts in praise, our hands
When I first saw the 2011 translation for the text of the Mass, I was surprised at the exhortation of
the celebrant before the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, which now reads: “…we dare to say…”.
What a strange wording! But considering that we are about to invoke a very tender and intimate
image of God and ask for things we want/need at the same time, it is entirely appropriate. Like
Moses in the Pentateuch, we dare to remind God who God has revealed the divine nature to be. It’s
as though we are saying, “If you are a loving God…”. The sense is not one of skepticism; rather it
is a statement of fact: “Since you are a loving God…”
Advent is a time of waiting, and a time of prayer. Isaiah teaches us how to do both at the same time.
We and all of God’s creation cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus!” And God says to us, in effect, “I am
coming. Are you ready?” Isaiah puts it best: “Would that you might meet us doing right.”
At midnight on November 9, 1989, when the Berlin wall came down the whole world was filled
with hope for peace and freedom. We were all touched by that hope. Our hope has remained alive
as we see democracy growing in the East Germany uniting with the West and with the rest of
Europe and the world becoming a powerful country once again. These are several hotspots in the
world where people look to hope and freedom. For instance, Soviet Union, Middle East, Israel,
Palestine, Rwanda….We have hope that one day freedom will return to these people….democracy
will triumph in the world. In human affairs we look at to the future but it doesn’t come. We truly
need the promise of God’s intervention and the hope that He will make us the true and faithful
believers in His Providence.
We experience frustrated hopes not just in big world events but much closer to home and in our
own personal lives as well. Family squabbles, unruly children, tension at work place, sickness,
accidents, spousal incompatibility. The future doesn’t always bring what we hope for and desire.
Hopes can turn to frustration and pain. Hopes are sometimes spoiled by bad luck. For example, not
winning a lottery. But often hopes are spoiled by human weakness, self-centeredness, and above all,
by our own sinfulness.
That’s what the first reading is about. (Isaiah 63: 16 – 19) Around 600 BC the Israelites were in
exile in Babylon. They longed for release and freedom. The reading is a prayer of longing and of
awareness that sin is the frustration of their hope. In contrast, Paul’s prayer in the second reading is
more than sinful longing for God’s coming. His is a prayer of thanksgiving for his grace and peace.
In the Gospel of Mark the parable is simple and straight forward. When the master is angry, and
servants don’t know when he will return, the important and responsible thing is to stay awake.
Being a disciple of Jesus means being alert to what’s going on around us; knowing that the Lord has
come and is present, and remaining firm in the hope that he will come again.
Each year, Advent pushes us to realize that we need God in our lives. Despite our bravado and self-
reliance and independence we cannot, like Peter, walk on water. We need the outstretched arm of
Jesus to save us. Our sins causes offense to God and harm to others. Advent is a time to examine
our own life and root out any weed or root we hand on to. To correct our faults we need tenacity
and determination that can come from relationship with God, our hope in Him.
Yes, we watch and we wait. But we must do more. In prayer, song, worship, and service, we call
upon our good God, and thus we get ourselves ready to meet the Lord at the same time.
Wish you all holy season of Advent!