Brett Fawcett

WORD MADE FLESH

First Sunday of Advent – November 30, 2014
Isaiah 63. 16-17; 64.1, 3-8 | Psalm 80 | 1 Corinthians 1.3-9 | Mark 13.33-37
November 17, 2014

Today is New Year's Day, liturgically speaking. November is when the Church looks forward the Second Coming, and now we leave this time of preparation to enter another one, Advent, where our eager anticipation of Christ's second Advent becomes a meditation on those who longingly waited for his first one.

Keep awake . . . or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. – Mark 13.35

'Keep awake . . . or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.'

Mark 13.35

This expectation is expressed in the First Reading. Isaiah cries out, "O, that you would tear the heavens and come down," and reveal "your presence" to the whole earth.

There are two ways that someone can beg God to "come down" and reveal himself. One is a demand that God vindicate himself, that he come out of hiding and prove to his enemies that he is who he says he is.

This can come as a taunt – the Pharisees challenged him to "come down!" off the cross – but it can also come from those who are struggling to serve and believe in him.

Oscar Wilde, the quintessential troubled disciple, was outraged by the apparent inability of God to stop the massacre of Christians in Bulgaria and angrily wrote, "If thou, in very truth, didst burst the tomb/Come down, O Son of Man, and show thy might!/Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of thee!"

COMING TO CONQUER

This is how we naturally expect a god to act: He will come and conquer anyone who defies his authority, like an earthly champion.

But there is also a humble request to "come down" which admits that this coming may take a form we can't initially recognize or understand.

This is exactly what Jesus tells us of his Second Coming in the Gospel reading: It will be surprising, and "you do not know" when or how it will happen.

This is the kind of request the psalmist makes when he sings, "O Shepherd of Israel . . . come to save us," the kind that Isaiah has when he acknowledges that God is the potter and we are the clay; he has the right to decide how things will "shape up," not us.

This is exactly how God chose to answer the prayer of the Old Testament. He did split the heavens and came down – as a helpless baby who couldn't even clean or feed himself without the Blessed Virgin's help. Yet this weakness, the same weakness manifested on the cross, was the strength that would destroy the devil.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS

God still seems to hide himself and take on the appearance of helplessness in a world full of injustice. This is why, as

St. Paul tells the Corinthians, we need every spiritual gift in order to be strengthened until the day of his "revealing," the day we will see him with his majesty fully displayed.

Until then, let us expect Christ to come to us in humble and surprising ways. As Wilde also wrote: "Come down, O Christ, and help me! . . . I shall behold, before the night,/The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,/The wounded hands, the weary human face."