I’d like to begin this article with a resounding “Happy New Year!” This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, which marks the beginning of the liturgical year for the Catholic Church. We commemorate this day by lighting the first purple candle on the Advent wreath, beginning the season of Advent — the four weeks preceding Christmas in which we wait expectantly for the birth of Jesus Christ.
The season of Advent is a time dedicated to preparing our souls not only for the birth of Christ, but also for His Second Coming. Advent is a season of reflection, in which the Lord invites us to carefully evaluate our relationship with Him and to consider further surrendering ourselves to Him. In this season of preparation and reflection, the INFLAME team is here to help you delve deeper into your relationship with God.
One of the ways we intend to do this is through a weekly reflection on the “theme” of the week. Across the nation, a theme that corresponds to each week of Advent is acknowledged and celebrated. Each Advent theme can be used as a lens through which to focus on the coming of Christ.
This week’s theme is: hope.
Let’s consider the idea of hope in this Sunday’s readings. Haven’t read them, or need a refresher? No problem! Just click here.
Are you back? Great. Let’s continue!
At first glance, hope might seem thin on the ground in this set of readings. The first reading, from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, focuses on our desperate need for a Savior — how utterly helpless and sinful we are without the love and aid of God. In the Gospel, Jesus commands us to be ever watchful, for we know not when the Lord may come. Neither of these readings seem particularly hopeful — in fact, they seem almost scary, reminding us that we are sinners and that the pathway to Heaven is narrow. This is an incredibly important element of these readings. As we begin the new year, the readings remind us that we cannot rely on our own abilities to be made holy; that without God, we are nothing; that we must be persistent in our relationship with Him.
However, there is another element of these readings which is equally as important: the hope found in the responsorial psalm, the second reading, and the end of the passage from Isaiah. When we turn to these segments of the readings, we discover the solutions to our sinfulness and worry present in the first reading and the Gospel.
The psalm tells us that “we shall be saved” if we turn to God, and He lets us see His face. The second reading is a resounding and clear sign of hopefulness — St. Paul tells us that we have already been equipped with the tools we need in order to remain faithful Christians. We have been “enriched in every way, with all discourse and knowledge … so that [we] are not lacking in any spiritual gift as [we] wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Although we are not all-knowing masters of theology, we have been enriched with the gifts Paul mentions in our Baptism and Confirmation; God has prepared us to live a life for Him and with Him. Not only has God given us the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but He’s also given us the spiritual and physical gifts of Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, and the Communion of Saints.
To me, the most striking element of hope in these readings is found in the last verse of the first reading:
“Yet, O Lord, you are our father;
we are the clay, and you are the potter:
we are all the work of your hands.”Isaiah 64:7
After all of the descriptions of our sinfulness and helplessness Isaiah has just given, this verse acts as a final word — and what a beautiful, hopeful word it is. Regardless of our faults and shortcomings, God will always be our loving Father. He, the Master Artist, is just waiting to shape us into something beautiful, something uniquely touched by Him. If only we are willing to surrender, to let ourselves be molded and shaped by the hands of God, He will guide us into a closer, more dedicated relationship with Him.
As you reflect and pray throughout the week, keep these readings and the theme of hope in mind. Consider:
- If Christ came today, would I be ready?
- Our hope in Christ and His second coming is ever-present. Am I truly living for that hope and actively practicing it by preparing my soul for Heaven?
- God has equipped me with the tools I need to live for Him. Am I using those tools to my advantage?
- Most importantly: Am I willing to more deeply surrender my life to Christ? How can I allow God to mold me and my life this week?
Let us pray.
Lord, thank you for the season of Advent, for this opportunity to turn to you and grow closer to you as we await your coming. May your Holy Spirit do its work in us this season, teaching us to surrender ourselves to you so that you may mold and shape us into beautiful works of art. Amen.
Have a great week everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article, and to be willing to grow in your relationship with Christ. If you enjoyed the article, be sure to share it with a friend or comment what you liked best! Happy Advent!
Extra Resources for the Curious and Eager:
- Listen to this amazing sermon from Bishop Robert Barron about the first reading from Isaiah
- Check out this beautiful song from Casting Crowns that focuses on the image of God as the potter and us as His clay (heads up: it made me cry)
- Read this moving poem by John Donne that addresses the conflict between our deep desire for God and our sinful nature