Parish reconciliation this past weekend, and an eye-opener for me. The pastor chose two readings from the First Sunday of Advent this year. I’m familiar with the citations here, “rend the heavens and come down,” the no-ear, no-eye passage, and the potter-and-clay image.
This opening reading from cycle B of Advent’s first week is a natural for the sacrament. The prophet evokes memories of the Exile. It is thought that these late chapters in Isaiah are far past the Babylonian Exile. Perhaps there is a realization that sin and alienation from God isn’t dependent on external catastrophe. Any serious believer is more than aware that we can find ourselves adrift from God and we wonder why we have wandered. We can barely admit it is our own doing. We blame God:
You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named forever.
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
We plead for an intervention:
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds
we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
We appeal less to a reminder to a God who needs no jarring of memory. We need to recall God’s acts–if not for Israel then in our own lives. One key to a deeper connection with the Word of God is to see how Biblical events have played out in our own pilgrimage through life. Can we see acts of creation, of exodus, of exile, and of return from bondage? No better prophet than Isaiah can show us, remind us.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen,
any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
all of us have become like unclean people,
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
we have all withered like leaves,
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
There is none who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to cling to you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.
Did you catch “polluted rags”? A good antidote to pelagianism. And again, a final word isn’t so much for reminding God who is the potter. We ourselves need the reality check.
What a good Scripture for penance. And Advent. And certainly for both.