B Cycle – 1st Sunday of Advent 17

                                                                Is. 63:16b-17; 64:2-7                                                

In the Book of Deuteronomy God tells us and the Israelites he will”… if we listen to his voice he will open the treasure houses of heaven and we will stand in awe at things he will do among us who believe.  W hen is the last time you stood in awe at the things God is doing?

Today the Prophet Isaiah is voicing a concern that God is not doing anything amazing any longer.  Perhaps if he was doing some miracles then people will begin to listen to God.  The truth we are being warned about becoming complacent and unmindful of God’s desire for us to listen to him and follow him.

Why do you let me wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not fear you?  So the issue is that we want God to do something that will get our attention and then we will seek his will.  In other words, we believe God is the cause of our following our own desires instead of living according to his plan. What kind of sign do you think it will take for any of us to love God with our entire heart, mind, strength and soul?  Are we unaware of God’s desire for us to listen to him and live according to his will?

Isaiah is expressing a failing in us and we have become very comfortable with living our faith according to what makes us feel good instead of desiring to live according to God’s will.  We have stopped seeking God’s will and we do not realize we have abandoned God for a less demanding faith.

That is it isn’t it.  We want an easier faith that allows us to enjoy all the pleasures offered us by the world and we want to dictate the terms of our allegiance to God.  What we want is a God who is silent and without power or demands.  Isaiah’s words are truly a plea made by us; “oh that you would find us doing right and mindful of your ways.” Yet instead of doing right and being mindful of God’s desire for our lives we like Paul find ourselves doing just the opposite. His words could easily be our words “for what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do…” (Rom.7:15).

Yet, if you listen to the words of Isaiah, you would see that instead of admitting sin abounds in us we desire him to arouse us to passionately follow his voice.  We want a demonstration of power to gain our attention. We feel we are doing right just because we sit in church and pray; we are faithful in attending mass; we use our gifts and talents to serve and yet we wonder “where is our God” because he is silent.

Doesn’t God know what I am praying for over and over again?  Does God have the will to intervene in my life so that my fears, my pain and my doubts are removed? Does God have the power to do the things I read about in the bible and will he come to my aid?

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.  Do we need signs and wonders in order to believe that God desires only good for us?  Is our approach to being faithful to God’s call dependent on things that can be seen and if so where does faith fit in our willingness to trust and follow God.

If our faith depends on things that can be seen then we only need to look on the broken body of Christ on the cross.  That in itself is the greatest sign of how far God will go to have us know the depth of his love.

I happen to believe there is something in us that motivates us to be active in our response to God.  It is not that we demand signs but instead we are motivated to do things that on the surface are “acts of faith” done to put us in the presence of God. Yet I know as we are doing these acts of faith we do not take the time to allow God to be present to us. We have become believers in doing things that are seen as spiritual while at the same time we have not given God the one thing necessary to strengthen our faith and that is give him our hearts and will.

We are so worried about what we are doing to please God that we overlook God at work in us who believe.  We need to trust God and place ourselves in his hands and let the potter shape us, mold us and form us.  Do we have the courage to quit trying to please God and ask him to change our hearts?  Paul exhorts us to do that when he says “… to him be the glory who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Eph. 3:20). 

What we do should be done because we believe and have faith in the promises of God?  Do we need signs and wonders to believe- of course not- but we do need a faith that is based on more than a blind hopeFor in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for” (Rom.8:24-25). 

What is it that we have seen and heard?  As we enter this Advent season of anticipation and waiting, I invite you do invite Christ to be born in your heart.  Turn to the scriptures and encounter the living God in his word, allowing his words and actions to become your hope and your source of wisdom and knowledge of who you are and how deeply he loves you. This hope will grow in us as we encounter God and it will do more than increase your piety. It will increase your desire to make the name of God known to those who need signs and wonders to believe.  You are called to be that sign and wonder giving witness to the kingdom of God among us.

 

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