The message of Advent, which begins today, ushers us into a new liturgical year, is that God is ready and willing to save us, but we have to be alert to receive that salvation. It is like a boat that you have to be ready to catch: those who are alert and jump into it when it arrives will be safe. Those who are distracted will miss it and perish.
The first reading offers us some of the most beautiful words of the Old Testament, expressing humanity's longing for God. "I wish you would tear the sky and descend"says Isaiah. Since the sin of Adam and Eve, humanity groans under the weight of its iniquity, but it also groans for salvation, even without being aware of it.
It was as if we were programmed for salvation and the many forms of sincere religious worship ("sincere" because some forms were nothing more than corruptions of religion leading to the corruption of its practitioners), even the erroneous forms, expressed an inchoate desire for salvation.
But with the God of Israel it was no longer humanity that sought God, but God who sought humanity. Now at last there was a god - the God - who spoke to humanity, told us what we had to do and was always consistent in his commands: demanding, yes, but consistent.
In ancient times, men counted only on their confused consciences to guide them, but the God of Israel spoke clearly: "Behold, you were angry and we have sinned.". God punished sin, but that same punishment was mercy because it also clearly showed the way to righteousness, even if it was not yet clear what would bring salvation.
But through Jesus Christ salvation has come to us, in person, in Him. And to receive it we must remain awake and alert. "Be vigilant, be watchful: for you do not know when the time is ripe.". Jesus uses the parable of a man who has gone on a journey: the servants never know when he will come back, but even "lest I come unexpectedly and find you asleep".
Doesn't God want to keep us in a state of tension, as if we have to spend our lives drinking caffeinated energy drinks? No. The key to understanding Christ's words is to appreciate that the logic of Christianity is love. We are invited to participate in, receive and respond to divine love. And love is always alert. Ancient religion sought to appease the divinity: sacrifices were offered in an attempt to obtain favors (good harvests, avoidance of natural disasters, etc.).
Religion could be reduced to periodic rites. But true religion seeks the union of love between man and God. Love is awake, it fears to grow cold, it seeks to remain kindled. This is the fire we try to kindle in this Advent, as we wait for the God who has truly torn the heavens as a little child to descend to us.
Homily on the readings of the First Sunday of Advent (B)
The priest Luis Herrera Campo offers its nanomiliaA short one-minute reflection for these Sunday readings.