Second Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2012
Reflection for the Second Week of Advent
(See the Reflection from the first week of Advent by clicking on the link to the left.)
The opening lines of the first reading for Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent (Isaiah 40:25-31) caught my eye because they speak of the stars, and I like to look at the stars, especially at this time of year.
“To whom can you liken me as an equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things: he leads out their army and numbers them, calling them all by name. By his great might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing!” (Is 40:25-26)
In the reading, the prophet Isaiah is proclaiming the good news of God’s coming to the people of Israel, who are enslaved by the Babylonians. The people are giving up hope, thinking that God has turned his eyes away from them (“My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God” v 27). And so, God tells them to lift their eyes up to him, to the One who created the heavens and the very stars that their Babylonian captors worship as gods. They are not gods; neither the Babylonians nor their gods have the power of the One who created everything that is.
God, who sees every star, calls them by name, and holds them in existence, has not turned his eyes away from Israel. God is coming. Look at the stars – away from yourself where you find no power or strength -- and remember the One who looks upon you, the One who is surely coming, and the power God brings to save, to make things new. Look up, remember how God’s fidelity and power have saved in the past, and you will find hope that can change everything.
“Do you not know or have you not heard? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” (Is 40:28-31)
The imagery of this reading invites us to a shift of perspective, away from ourselves and toward God, especially where we have grown faint or weary, where we have staggered and fallen. Can we hear God’s words through Isaiah speaking to us? “Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things!” See the One who comes to you, whose love and power brings hope and strength and makes us soar as with eagles’ wings.
I find these themes beautifully expressed in a poem by Denise Levertov that really speaks to me in these Advent days. It’s called “Primary Wonder”. Maybe it will speak to you as well.
Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.*
The God who comes to us in Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, the One whose very being and power is the opposite of void and death, the one whose creative power, bringing about life and healing, never stops, but sustains and renews us, hour by hour. Especially in those places where we may be tempted to give up because we think that everything depends on us, we are invited to remember that the divine “power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).
Perhaps this week God might find a way of lifting up our eyes, drawing them away from all the problems – and less important – distractions that demand our attention, and helping us to see or sense something of God’s mysterious presence in nature, in the world around us. Maybe God can stir our memories to recall experiences of joy that have blessed us with new hope, by freeing us from the feeling of being trapped and overwhelmed. Or to see the faces of persons in whom we have experienced something of God’s coming and presence. Why not ask God for this great gift? Why not set aside some time each day to find out how it might be given? Advent invites us to a kind of holy remembering that gives us new vision, fills us with joy and gratitude, and frees us to engage the challenges and problems of our world with hope.
*from a collection of her poems called The Stream and the Sapphire.
Comments from Alumni and Friends:
"A powerful and beautiful reflection. Thank you, Father Randy. May God's power, at work within us, truly accomplish, abundantly, far more than we can ask or imagine - for ourselves, our families, our friends, our world." ~ Sr. Leonarda Nowak, FDC, '87
"The poem, Primary Wonder, is beautiful. I will share this with my family and close friends. Thank you." ~ Brenda '85
"I found this reflection to be very inspirational. It's so important to seek that spiritual calm during the storms of life that we encounter. I just loved the poem "Primary Wonder." It's nice to know that we can find that strength inside us, a gift from God." ~ Jeffrey Di Luglio '91
"This past week, when trying to identify the constellations in the night sky, I find myself pausing for a few minutes and remembering your Reflection for the Second Week of Advent. Thank you for reminding me of what is most important during the Christmas season." ~ Paul Curley '73
"Such a beautiful reminder that God continues to work within us even when we sometimes doubt ourselves. Self-doubt is my own worst personal enemy, and this Advent reflection reminds me that God is working within me and is greater than my worries and doubts. I look at our family Christmas tree and am reminded of all the ways God has worked through our family. (Our tree is quite eclectic, reflecting milestones and memories in our family life.) This reflection is a reminder to look at God and not at myself; He has always guided me and continues to do so. If I keep my eyes on Him, He's got me covered!" ~ Jim '76