A Cycle – 1st Sunday of Advent 19
Is. 2: 1-5
God is inviting us through the prophet Isaiah, to “come to (Him) and (let Him) teach us His ways so we will walk in His paths.” God never demands, instead He invites us to respond. This time it is to an invitation to become a disciple by spending time with Him and listening to Him. Normally for most of us, it is our parents who are the first teachers of our faith. Then as we grow older, we attend parochial schools or attend our parish school of religion (PSR). Is there a point in our lives when we have learned all we need to know about our faith?
My experience is we misunderstand the concept of “knowing about our faith.” When God says He will teach us consider the interaction of Jesus with the Pharisees. Jesus challenged them because they “held to a form of religion but denied the power of it.” They were so caught up with understanding the laws and rituals they could not be open to seeing how nothing they did help them learn to walk in the ways of God. It seems as if we have followed in their footsteps rather than in the footsteps of the disciples. We have become modern day Pharisees, depending on our ability to know and follow the laws and rituals.
God invites us today to “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” Is following the law enough to satisfy us? My experience visiting hospice patients has convinced me we have doubts about our destiny after death. We are uncertain about God’s mercy and if we have done enough to merit being in His presence. Much of what I hear from hospice patients is an expression of hope rather than certainty. Here is something to reflect upon, Paul in his letter to the Romans says many things about the law. One of the things he said, it the law can only act as our disciplinarian. It can only condemn us not change us. Paul says without the law there would be no sin. He also goes on to say because of Jesus Christ we are no longer under the law but live by the law of the Spirit, whom Jesus said would teach us and remind us of all he said and did.
As we begin this Advent Season, I invite you as I did last week to read the gospel of John Allow the Spirit to teach you and remind you about who you are and what God created you to be. Keep in mind God made you and I a promise to change our hearts so we would automatically follow his laws and commands, by the law written on our hearts. If we would take these weeks of Advent and reflect on this promise of God, we would discover just what it is God requires of us. God created us to be more than faithful to the laws, He created us to walk in the kingdom of God sharing intimacy with Him forever. God desires disciples not rule followers. All it takes to follow the rules is fear of the consequences of breaking the law. To become a disciple takes a total change of heart which God promised us the Spirit would accomplish in us.
Why do you think Jesus chastised the Pharisees? The Pharisees followed the law and went further than the law required. If they were required to fast one day, they fasted three days. If they were required to tithe 10%, they tithed 20%. Why such excess? They believed they could earn God’s through their own self-discipline. We know they questioned Jesus as to why the disciples violated the purification law by not washing their hands before they ate. Jesus’ answer to them was to tell them what makes a person “unclean” comes from within them, from their hearts” not from following or not following the law. We can follow the law without our ever engaging our hearts.
As we enter this season of Advent, we are reminded by the Church to prepare ourselves to encounter the one who died to bring us back into right standing with God. The challenge is to stop depending on ourselves and rely on God to guide us.
God desires us to be less self-reliant and totally dependent on the two things He sent us to change us into sons and daughters of God. God sent us Jesus Christ to take the penalty for our sins onto the cross and free us to stand before God as did the woman caught in adultery – not condemned but with a mission to live differently because forgiveness changes us. He sent us the Holy Spirit to change our hearts so we would follow the path God desires us to follow, one of witnessing to His mercy and love.
All it takes to have God teach us the path of discipleship is to say to Him, “I desire to know you and to feel your love poured into my heart.” Make it different from every other Advent and let God speak to your heart guiding you and allowing Him to love you into wholeness.
As Isiah says, let us climb the mountain of God and stand before Him. Let us strive for more of His presence as Moses did and seek to see His face and hear His voice. Christ came to restore what we lost by the sin of Adam and we are invited by God to stand before Him and let Him reveal to us how to live a life worthy of our calling.
Advent is a time for us to examine our lives in the light of the gospel and realize we need more of Christ redeeming power, more of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and more acceptance of God’s embrace.