During Advent the Church brings us back in time to the centuries before the coming of Christ – the readings allow us to identify with the sentiments, longings and hopes of the people of the Old Testament who awaited the Messiah. We see how God was at work in their lives, leading them to the truth about their relationship with Him and each other. Last Sunday the Prophet Isaiah presented us with the image of God as Father and the Potter who formed His people. In today’s first reading God is the Shepherd who gently leads His flock, feeding them and gathering the lambs in His arms, holding them against His breast.
This morning’s Gospel invites us to prepare a way for the Lord in the wilderness of our lives – or perhaps better to allow God to prepare a way in our hearts for His coming. We may ask ourselves for whom or what are we preparing; who or what are we expecting? – as always the readings and prayers of the liturgy are our best teachers – during Advent these focus on what God would like to find when He comes – two phrases from the prayer for Monday week 1 stood out for me – it prayed that when the Lord knocks he “may find us watchful in prayer and exultant in his praise” – I take it to mean not so much that we must multiply our prayers but that we be alert to His Presence with us moment by moment and respond with alacrity and joy to whatever He may ask – as Mary responded with her fiat and Magnificat.
Advent reminds us that we are on a journey and that the Lord will come to each of us personally at our journey’s end. We have come from the hand of God – he loved us and called us into being – each one is personally known and loved and we journey through life until the moment when He calls us back to Himself. Advent strengthens our hope that He will come - and invites us to be ready and on the watch. If we learn to recognise His coming at each moment then when He finally comes for us we will recognise Him and surrender to His embrace.
The Entrance antiphon of this morning’s Mass expresses it very beautifully: “People of Sion the Lord will come to save all nations and your heart will exult to hear his majestic voice, the people of God will sing songs of joy like songs in the night. They will have gladness of heart..... On every high mountain streams will flow and there will be joy for you are loved by the Lord.”
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