Two Promises: One Hope

Today’s Mass readings (Isaiah 4.2–6; Psalm 121; Matt 8.5–11) allow us to glimpse what the fulfilment of our Advent hope will be. In Isaiah we see the fulfilment of the Messianic promise and the blessing that will come to Israel:

 . . . over all, the glory of the Lord
will be a canopy and a tent
to give shade by day from the heat,
refuge and shelter from the storm and the rain.

and in Matthew, the fulfilment of the promise to the gentiles and our shared eschatalogical hope:

 . . . ‘I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.’

These are indeed great promises, and as the word ‘promise’ indicates (pro=forward, mittere=send), they are dynamic, they send us forward. They launch us out into the unknown towards the hope of salvation. Advent should shake us out of our complacency, make us look afresh at our lives and hear the call to holiness God makes to each of us. It will not be without cost. Advent is not a penitential season in the way that Lent is penitential, but it should be a time of great simplicity and most of us have forgotten how to be simple. There are just twenty-three days for us to prepare for the coming of the Lord this Christmas, to learn again the art of simplicity. We need to be watchful lest our opportunity slip by:

Give us the grace, Lord, to be ever on the watch for Christ your Son.
When he comes and knocks at our door,
let him find us alert in prayer,
joyfully proclaiming his glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.