The new Church year
begins with a plea for God's visitation. "Oh that you would
rend the heavens and come down," the prophet Isaiah cries
in today's First Reading. In today's Psalm, too, we hear the
anguished voice of Israel, imploring God to look down from His
heavenly throne-to save and shepherd His people.
Today's readings are relatively brief. Their language and "message"
are deceptively simple. But we should take note of the serious
mood and penitential aspect of the Liturgy today-as the people
of Israel recognize their sinfulness, their failures to keep
God's covenant, their inability to save themselves.
And in this Advent season, we should see our own lives in the
experience of Israel. As we examine our consciences, can't we,
too, find that we often harden our hearts, refuse His rule,
wander from His ways, withhold our love from Him?
God is faithful, Paul reminds us in today's Epistle. He is our
Father. He has hearkened to the cry of His children, coming
down from heaven for Israel's sake and for ours to redeem us
from our exile from God, to restore us to His love.
In Jesus, we have seen the Father (see John 14:8-9). The Father
has let His face shine upon us. He is the good shepherd (see
John 10:11-15) come to guide us to the heavenly kingdom. No
matter how far we have strayed, He will give us new life if
we turn to Him, if we call upon His holy name, if we pledge
anew never again to withdraw from Him.
As Paul says today, He has given us every spiritual gift-especially
the Eucharist and penance-to strengthen us as we await Christ's
final coming. He will keep us firm to the end-if we let Him.
So, in this season of repentance, we should heed the warning-repeated
three times by our Lord in today's Gospel-to be watchful, for
we know not the hour when the Lord of the house will return.