Bishop Robert Barron2017
Every time Advent rolls around, I remind people to go back to the words of that most famous of Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” We hear, “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.” Until we can move into the spiritual space suggested by those words, we will not catch the meaning of this season.
The single biggest challenge of the Advent season is to feel our need for a savior. The truth is, we can't solve our problem through an act of the will, because the perversion of the will is the problem. We need help. We need the intervention of a loving God who will shape us anew. We need a savior.
Our first reading for this first Sunday of Advent gives us the master image of God as the potter and we, his creatures, as clay. St. Irenaeus said that God's provident direction of our lives is easy as long as the clay of our hearts remains supple and moist. Trouble comes only when we allow the clay to harden.
Lent is, of course, a penitential season, but Advent is as well. We get in touch with our sinfulness during Advent precisely because we want to prepare ourselves for the coming of a Savior. If there is nothing to be saved from, then there is no point in rejoicing at the arrival of Jesus the Lord. The prophet Isaiah offers us a number of powerful images for sin in our first reading for this Sunday. It behooves us, as an Advent spiritual exercise, to meditate on them.
The French spiritual writer Simone Weil said that the core of the Christian life is waiting, watching, expecting. We cannot save ourselves, but we can look with rapt attention to the one who can. In this sense, we are, permanently, an Advent people.