Isaiah is by far and away my favorite Old Testament prophet, but I really take issue with something he says in Sunday’s First Reading. On behalf of the people, he says: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants … Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you.”
My issue is this: It’s not God’s fault that we wander from his ways. God is not the one who hardens our hearts. Nor do I believe things will change if he were to rend the heavens and come back. Oh, they might change for awhile, but in the end human nature reasserts itself.
When it comes to wandering away and hardening our hearts, the choice is mine and mine alone. God cannot make us do anything. Oh sure he could, but that would totally negate his gift of our human freedom. And if God did make me do something, can you imagine my complaining if it’s something I don’t like! The same issue holds in one of the soon-to-be extinct Eucharistic prayers … we pray: “Make us grow in love together with Benedict our Pope, etc.” I’ve always changed that to read “help us grow in love.” The “helping” bit God can do, for sure … all he needs is the invitation from us.
Let this Advent be that invitation … find some emptiness, darkness, and silence where you can have the experience of being redeemed, recreated, renamed, and reborn. Be ever watchful and alert to the experience of how loved you are, and how many ways there are to bring Christ to life in the world around you.
Be God’s smile for someone today!!!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.