THE DAY IS AT HAND
Come! Let us go up to the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, so that He may teach us His ways, and we may walk in His paths. Isaiah 2:3
TODAY'S Old Testament lesson is a prophetic word that God gave Isaiah concerning Jerusalem; a word He commissioned His prophet to speak to His people so that they might hear it and live! It is a word spoken also to the church today, so may we, too, hear with humility and receive it with thanksgiving.
In this divine oracle Isaiah views Jerusalem in her opulence and prophecies that in the future she would know an even greater splendor yet, but first she would suffer many things! First she would be uprooted, burned down, her people massacred and the survivors taken away to the strange and distant land of Babylon where they would pine in sorrow awaiting the Advent of their God.
In this respect Jerusalem was a shadow of the coming Christ who laid His glory aside so that He might suffer many things at the hands of power-hungry and jealous men; men who would have had no power at all had it not been given them by the Father, but it was, because the Lord's passion was no mere political accident, but rather it was the fulfillment of the mystery of the ages!
St. John details the plan for us in his gospel: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son. He gave Him over to collect the terrible wages of our sins so that by His death He might become the propitiation for our sensuality, quarreling and jealousy, and so that He might bring many sons to glory by His resurrection from the dead. You are those sons and the promise is to you, to your children, and to your children's children. So let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light!
In Isaiah's vision the church is the Mountain that attracts all men to her golden peaks, Jew and Gentile alike, for there is no difference between the two says St. Paul: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus!
Please learn this lesson, dear Christian, lest pride be your downfall. There is no distinction between you and the looters in Ferguson, Mo, between you and the Muslim jihadist, between you and and the homosexual burning with unnatural passion. There is no difference in the sight of God between you and the person you despise, dislike, distrust and disown, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
St. Paul is not setting up moral equivalencies here. He is not going soft or justifying anyone's sin, but rather condemning them all alike. He teaches us here that all men must be penitent if they wish to be absolved of their iniquities, if they wish to be saved from the temporal and eternal punishment sin always draws. You, the jihadist, the gay activist, the Michael Brown faction and the Darren Wilson faction, The Tamir Rice party and those who stand for law and order; all alike are called to disown their sin and come to the Lord's holy mountain so that God might cleanse them, and so that people might learn how to turn their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; which is to say, into agricultural implements that nourish people and make them glad instead of shedding one another's blood in jealousy, anger and rage.
Yet you might ask: If Isaiah's vision is true, if it is fulfilled in Christ, why is there still war: war in our hearts, war in our families and conflict in the world at large?
It is true that sometimes the church's peace spills over into the world. As much as it does there is good will among men. It is so delightful a condition that we wish we could simply open the church doors so that the gospel of peace might flood every home and every heart, so that the madness would stop, but peace on that scale awaits another day.
If Advent teaches us anything it is to wait patiently for the Lord. Though man knows neither the day nor the hour, you can be sure that your Lord will return victorious to bring all evil to a halt and to diadem the right, but the world does not know how to wait. Because it has no Christ, it has no hope, so it seeks to make salvation for itself here and now. Yet however elegant the plan, it always backfires. The junkyard of history is littered with the glorious schemes of men and earth's graveyards with the bones of its victims.
Yet a new world is coming. It was inaugurated at the Lord's birth and fulfilled in the events of today's gospel. Jesus entered Jerusalem to stand trial for our sins, to receive our sentence of death on Calvary and to rise again in power and to conquer death and Satan for us; and vanquished they are!
Today the splendor that Isaiah sees in his vision resides in the church which is the "chief of all mountains." You have not simply "come to church" on this First Sunday in Advent, but in the words of Hebrews chapter twelve, you have come, "to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Able."
This being the case let us take full advantage of the liturgical drama that is now upon us. As we wait patiently these four weeks for the festivities of the Christ Mass; for the joy that marks the Lord's arrival in the flesh to save us, let us walk patiently with faith, with hope and with charity towards all people, for the night is far spent, the Day is at hand, and our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Amen.
Rev. Dean Kavouras