Advent is a great longing, a patient waiting for HIM-the Great I AM, who is coming to judge the living and the dead. This liturgical year, we in the Church will focus on the Gospel of St. Matthew on Sunday’s (Cycle “A”). St. Matthew’s Gospel offers us the Coming of the Magi, the Sermon on the Mount and notion of Jesus as the Kingdom of God present among us now and in the Eschaton.
How wonderfully appropriate then to begin with the prophet that seems to speak the most “eloquently” on the Coming of the Messiah, Isaiah. Here we read and mediate on a brief, but powerful passage from chapter 2:2-5. It is an “oracle” or “prophesy.” This is a prophecy, which explicitly refers to the “restoration” of Jerusalem. It is not as much about the physical reconstruction of the destroyed temple or city walls, which will eventually take place a few hundred years after Isaiah’s prophecy, but about the “New Jerusalem,” which the Messiah – Jesus Christ who will restore humanities relationship with the Father with His Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection. It is not just about the Jewish people, but as St. Matthew and St Paul will stress, it will also involve the Gentiles (a.k.a. – the whole world). This is a prophecy that ultimately will only find its fulfillment in the New and Eternal Covenant, who is Jesus Christ. Isaiah often refers to God’s mountain and having to climb this in our spiritual journey and that our truest and innermost desires are for union with our loving Father through the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. Isaiah writes about us “walking in His path” and “being instructed” by the Word of the Lord. We can never be “instructed in His ways” without a humble and docile heart. A docile heart is the virtue by which a heart is open and willing to be taught and corrected interiorly by the Trinity and exteriorly by His human instruments.
Isaiah uses agricultural (farming) language to convey this point. He says: the Messiah is going to “beat their swords into plowshares,” and “their spears into pruning hooks.” The only way he can turn our disordered, earth bound desires into heavenly desires, for which we are truly made, the Messiah will have to plow the depth of our hearts with “plowshares” – a tool to cultivate soil and in this case an analogy for the soil of our hearts. This means we need to learn our sins in order to repent of them and to be forgiven for them. This is the only and true road to healing and the Cross. He will also reshape a spear into a beautiful instrument to cut through our selfishness and self-centeredness and prune our hearts of self-absorption, lies and deceptions of Satan and the world. This will help us to come to realize the true desire of our hearts – God. We are meant to be a people restored and redeemed to not just our original dignity in the Garden of Eden, but recreated even more beautifully in Jesus Christ.
Isaiah is writing about the Coming of the Messianic Kingdom, which is what Advent is all about and what our salvation history tells us. This is reflected so beautifully in St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. St. John Paul shows us our true original beauty and dignity in the Garden of Eden, what the fall of Adam and Eve caused, a great rupture with God, within ourselves, with other people and with all creation. He also shows that we are redeemed people of Jesus Christ and who we are destined to be in Heaven.
In his General Audience of September 4, 2002 then Pope John Paul II said that this passage from Isaiah was: “an invitation not to be fixed on the present that is so wretched, but to sense beneath the surface of daily events the mysterious presence of divine action leading history toward a very different horizon of light and peace.” Our response as a Church to the reading from Isaiah is “let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.” This kind of response is rooted in joy and peace, which must be rooted in an understanding that we are redeemed people with great dignity and bought with the high price of the Blood of Jesus Christ. We have the eschaton to yearn for while still realizing that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand in the Presence of Jesus Christ.
St. John Paul II in his work “Theology of the Body” reflects extensively on who we truly are, how we have fallen, who redeemed us, and to whom we are to look to in eternity. This is exactly what St. Paul was reflecting on in his Letter to the Romans 13:11-14. St. Paul is exhorting us to “awake from sleep” and throw off “the works of darkness.” He is not condemning us, but certain actions. Here’s a shock for some modern day Catholics, but God, through His Church, has the right to call certain actions sin and evil and as a loving Mother (the Church) and Father (God) to try to protect us from actions that do nor reflect our God-given dignity. As a matter of fact they are the only ones who have the authority to do so. Certain kinds of thoughts, actions and lifestyles God has deemed as “unhealthy” for us. This completely makes sense if we see our Father as a loving parent and spouse, who wants to marry us and not a finger-wagging tyrant. If this were the ONLY life, who cares, live it up. Satan has deceived so many people, including Catholics, that there is no heaven, therefore no hell, and no sin and so do what you want. These ideas have NOT been revealed by God in Sacred Scripture nor Sacred Tradition, but only born in the pit of hell. The Holy Spirit (God) inspired St. Paul to write, “throw off” these deeds of darkness and put on the “armor of light.” That armor is needed, because we are in a spiritual battle with the Devil, who deceived our first parents, Adam and Eve.
Supernaturally, Jesus the Christ knows when He will return as determined by God the Father “but it was not part of his plan of salvation to reveal this information.” (CCC 673) We know the Father and Son share all Divine knowledge, but, Jesus while not showing any human knowledge of the upcoming eschatology, knows the appointed time when He will return to judge the living and the dead. Except for Noah and his family, no one truly showed concern for living a God-centered life as Isaiah and St. Paul are exhorting us to live. Noah and his family were the only ones who knew of the impending flood, a catastrophe of immense magnitude. Sadly, a few foolish misguided people including some who call themselves “clergy” and “ministers,” presume they have inside, gnostic-like secret knowledge of Jesus Second Coming. Jesus wants to be loved and not feared. Too many people, like in the days of Noah, are distracted by concerns of the world and are not living as dignified sons and daughters of the Father. “To watch” and “be vigilant,” are prominent concepts in Jesus’ teaching. Being faithful constantly and getting back up when we slip and miss the mark (sin) by going to confession is part of our faith to “wake up” and walk up to the “mountain” to the house of the Lord. As we begin this Advent season, be watchful: faithful, humble and virginal in heart, focused on loving God and loving and serving our neighbor and He has loved us.
Father Tom DeSimone was ordained a priest on May 13, 2006, the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He most recently served as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in White Plains, NY. He joins the staff of the Theology of the Body Institute on a three-year leave from the Archdiocese of New York, to become the Institute’s first full time spiritual advisor and Director of Clergy Development.