The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, comes from the prophet Isaiah.
The prophet confesses the people’s sin, and calls on the Lord to come down, to save his people, the work of his hands.
You, Lord, yourself are our Father,
‘Our Redeemer’ is your ancient name.
Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways
and harden our hearts against fearing you?
Return, for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your inheritance.
Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down!
– at your Presence the mountains would melt.
No ear has heard,
no eye has seen
any god but you act like this
for those who trust him.
You guide those who act with integrity
and keep your ways in mind.
You were angry when we were sinners;
we had long been rebels against you.
We were all like men unclean,
all that integrity of ours like filthy clothing.
We have all withered like leaves
and our sins blew us away like the wind.
No one invoked your name
or roused himself to catch hold of you.
For you hid your face from us
and gave us up to the power of our sins.
And yet, Lord, you are our Father;
we the clay, you the potter,
we are all the work of your hand.
- The good news, of course, is that the Lord did come down, in the mystery of his Incarnation, his birth at Bethlehem. He will come again too, at the end of Days, when he comes as Judge. And he comes to us still, daily, truly in word and sacrament, to help us overcome sin and the effects of sin, and return to the ways of love and grace.
- What hardness of heart do you suffer from?
- Where do you need the potter to refashion the clay of your life?
- What change might the Lord’s coming down, coming close, make possible for you?
Photograph of fresco of Isaiah, by Raphael, in Basilica of Sant’Agostino, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.