Advent - A time of expectancy

This is the season which emphasises the perpetual prayer of the Christian: Come Lord Jesus' (Rev 22.20). But it is also a time of spiritual challenge to us, the disciples of the Lord.

Many of the readings of Advent are taken from the prophets and the prophets usually brought unpalatable truths to their hearers.

The message of the prophets was very simple but challenging: God was going to redeem us from our sins. In the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 63; 16-17; 64:1.3-8) we hear of the desire for this to happen.

But the Jews had other ideas. They wanted a Redeemer who would deliver them – from other people’s sins – from the injustices inflicted upon them, the oppression and the physical slavery they were suffering at the hands of others.

They would welcome with open arms a Saviour who would deliver them from others, but as for a Saviour who would deliver them from themselves – no thanks. That is why the prophets were so unpopular. Jesus himself was rejected by the people of his time, due no doubt to his challenging preaching.

As the angel told Joseph, the Son who was to be born of Mary was to be called Jesus, Saviour, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.

The subject of sin (unpalatable truths) today is not a very popular preaching topic, much like the days of the prophets, however the fact is that Jesus’ mission was to deliver us from our sins – he is our Saviour (Catechism of the Catholic Church Compendium 118, 119 and 122).

A call to our hearts

At times maybe we are like the Jews of old, far more concerned with the sins of others against us than ours against God?

Isn’t it true that when we examine our conscience and are honest with ourselves many of the sins we confess as “uncharitableness” have come about because we are pre-occupied with sins of others, resenting them, reacting to them, talking about them?

And if we don’t make any real improvement from confession to confession it is because we are happy to carry on being wrapped up in resentment about sins of others rather than be concerned about our own.

Jesus often reminded the people of his time about the same situation. You recall the story of the woman accused of adultery, where Our Lord challenged those who made the accusation (John 8:3).

The message of the prophets is still very relevant today. We will hear the words of the prophets spoken if we are prepared to listen with our hearts. In his letter to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 1:3-9), St Paul speaks with great joy because he is writing to a happy people who are filled with God’s blessings. Why are they happy? They are still living in a world of persecution, people are still mocking them.

If we carefully read the words of St Paul we are told they have received the gift of the Spirit so they can live life.

They have accepted the Lord as Saviour, which means they have accepted Our Lord as Saviour; they have acknowledged and been liberated from their sins. Now that is the great challenge of the season of Advent. Has the good news of Jesus really reached our hearts? Are we challenged by what the prophets had to say as the Jews were (the unpalatable truths)?

Their message, in other words, is still a real “advent” call to our hearts, a preparation to receive Jesus into our lives at a depth he has never touched us up to now.

Copyright © Fr Dennis Byrnes The Catholic Leader