God's Word on Sunday: It’s up to us to keep ties with God alive

  • November 22, 2020

First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29 (Year B) Isaiah 63:16b-17; 64:1, 3-8; Psalm 80; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

Who has not wished at one time or another that God would make an appearance? This would solve definitively so many problems: whether God exists; what God is like; why there is injustice and suffering in the world; and who is “right.” God could also remake the world and put everything the way it should be.

This feeling is especially poignant when the world seems to fall apart or spin out of control. Isaiah expressed the fervent wish that God would tear open the heavens and come down. It would be awesome; the mountains would quake at God’s presence.

Isaiah recalled all the mighty and marvellous deeds of God in the past and wondered where they had all gone. This was written after the return from exile in Babylon. Hopes for a rebirth of the nation and a return to former glory had not been realized. He recognized that this perceived absence of God was because of the sins of the nation and the people’s failure to walk in God’s path.

But there was a bit of self-justification and dodging of responsibility: Isaiah insinuated that God had caused Israel to stray, hardening its collective heart. He accused God of hiding the divine face from the people, causing them to forget and wander off. But God does not play games of hide and seek.

When we fail to sense the presence of God, it is because our minds and hearts have become clouded with negative human attitudes, emotions and actions. Isaiah affirmed that God is not only our Father, but the master potter carefully and lovingly forming us into the desired image.

He called out to God plaintively, begging God to rekindle the relationship that existed with the nation in the past. Isaiah had the answer to his problem: He recognized that God always meets those who not only do right but do it gladly, and those who always keep God in their minds and hearts. Individually and collectively, we are responsible for our relationship with God and the world in which we dwell.

Paul rejoiced that God had been so generous with the Corinthian community, endowing them with grace and diverse spiritual riches. God had blessed them with inspired speech, knowledge and spiritual gifts. But there is a hint of sarcasm in Paul’s words, for these are precisely the gifts that were causing the disruption and division of the community.

Some in the community misused the gifts, using them to inflate their egos and grab power and influence over others. Throughout the letter, Paul chastised them for their abuse of God’s generosity, but he ends on a note of hope. God is faithful and would continue to bless them to the end, enabling them to be pure and blameless on the day of the Lord’s return. On that day, excuses and evasions will not suffice.

God did tear open the heavens and come down. Jesus was the visible presence of God during His ministry and the Spirit is active in the world and in our lives. But there will be another encounter for humanity when Jesus returns.

Unfortunately, the passage of time and the changing of attitudes have deadened the spiritual awareness of humanity. Many do not sense the presence or even the existence of God. We are in danger of going the way of the people in Isaiah’s reading.

The Gospel advises mindfulness — paying attention to what is before us each day but through a spiritual lens. The remembrance of God is not keeping some concept or idea in mind but constantly calling to mind God’s grace and blessings. In other words, gratitude keeps God in the mind and heart.

The warning about being on guard and not knowing the day or the hour is not to frighten us. Our response should not be some sort of guessing game that we play with God with the intent of making it under the wire. Joyful anticipation should be the motivation for the mindfulness and careful attention we apply to our spiritual and moral life.

Whether our encounter occurs after our passage from this life or the sudden return of the Lord, we want to show our faithfulness and gratitude by presenting a life well lived.