When we come into church for Mass we bring with us the things we are struggling with: The challenging family situations that are so difficult to resolve, the depression that comes from loneliness, the grief that comes from the recent loss of a spouse, the fear of financial setbacks, the worry about the possibility of losing your job, the feelings of guilt over some sinful act, regret for the hurtful words said in the heat of a nasty argument.
We bring these things with us because they are part of us, and we are looking for some message of hope, we long to hear something helpful that will just get us through just this coming week!
That’s why the words from Isaiah are so poignant: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” And we all have to admit, that the difficulties we face sometimes cause us to drift away from Christ’s message of hope. But there’s another passage from Isaiah that begins to offer a response to that question and provide a glimmer of hope: “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.”
I think there’s a reason why the Lord lets us wander. Not to punish, but to allow circumstances to transform us. “Lord, you are our father, we are the clay and you are the potter.” Advent encourages us to be patient—the wait with patience and with hope. This reflective waiting with patience gets drowned out with our celebrations of Christmas that begin after Thanksgiving. We celebrate Christmas during Advent and then when it’s really Christmas Season we start to take down the decorations.
So what should Advent really be? It should be a season to get in touch with our deepest yearnings. Like Mary, we wait patiently so Christ can be “born” within us. It’s a time to seek healing and to find peace and quiet within ourselves. Advent challenges us to allow the Potter to form us; to be mindful that when we resist the work of the potter and become rigid, we can actually “break”. Perhaps the work of the Potter, in molding and transforming us, is to teach us to remain “awake” to the things that really matter (when we say farewell to this world): love for each other, faith in God, and a heart grateful enough to let go and forgive all the angers, bitterness, and frustrations we had in our lives. Advent is about patience and waiting with hope—pushing away anxiety and fear, realizing that we are all works in progress and God knows what he’s doing even though we don’t know what we’re doing.
Maybe during this Season Advent you can say this famous prayer of St Teresa of Avila—saying slowly can always have a calming effect of our jangled nerves:
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things,
he who has God
finds he lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.