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Advent Waiting





Anyone fortunate enough to have visited the Holy land will know that Mount Sion in Jerusalem and the place where the Temple once stood is by no means the most impressive mountain in the region. When compared with the mountains of Galilee, the Golan Heights or the breath-taking, snow-capped  Mount Hermon, Mount Sion is nothing more than a puny little hill among many on the edge of the Judaean desert! Even the Mount of Olives towers over Mount Sion, offering  splendid views over the Old city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. So its no exaggeration to say then, that only an act of God could cause Mount Sion to tower over all the other mountains in the Holy Land. Only an act of God could transform this backwater village built around Mount Sion into the Holy City,  « the true pole of the earth » as one of the psalms goes as far as to claim, the Holy City where God chooses to take up his dwelling. And yet that’s the extraordinary claim of the prophet Isaiah in the First Reading today. Mount Sion will tower above all the other mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. And that’s because despite having many more impressive places to chose for his dwelling, God makes it known through his prophets that Jerusalem is where his Temple is to be. So for the prophet Isaiah, Jerusalem is exalted above all other places on earth, not because of its own merit or any earthly beauty but precisely because of God’s presence there. For the Jewish people, all the grandeur and opulence of the Jerusalem Temple meant nothing at all if it weren’t for the Holy of Holies at its centre,The place where the divine presence or Shekinah dwelt. When the First Temple was razed to the ground almost 600 years before Jesus,the prophet Ezekiel remarks that the Glory of the Lord was seen leaving the Temple ruins and moving east, east towards the exiled Jews in Babylon. Even today, the Jewish people believe that the divine presence, remains at the Western Wall, all that remains of the Second Temple which was destroyed only 40 years after the death of Jesus. So its that divine presence, that shekinah, God’s concealed beauty and glory that makes Jerusalem tower above all the other mountains in Isaiah’s vision. And its God’s presence that has drawn countless pilgrims into the Holy City for thousands of years. Even today, Christians, Jews and Muslims make that journey to Jerusalem in the hope of drawing closer to God. Yes, only an act of God could make a place so isolated and desolate into the « heavenly place where the Most High dwells ». I think the image of Jerusalem’s greatness being nothing but the fruit of God’s grace resonates with all of us, in some way. We can be very quick to convince ourselves of our unworthiness to be in God’s presence.We can be very slow to say yes to what God might be calling us to. Its much easier to find excuses…« I’m way too shy to read at Mass », « I’ve a hopeless singing voice. I could never be part of a choir », « I’ve way too many faults to ever consider becoming a priest ».Remember, Jerusalem on its own is a puny little hill in the middle of nowhere. But with God’s presence dwelling there, it towers over all other earthly realms ! Likewise, on my own, I may seem unworthy and useless. But with God dwelling in me, I can, with his grace do infinitely more than I ever would have thought or imagined ! All of us are Temples of God’s presence. All of us carry his glory within earthen vessels. Our self-preoccupation can cause that beauty and glory to be eclipsed. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of humility to unlock God’s presence within and unleash his glory into the world around us ! And Advent is a good time to do just that. Advent is a time of twofold waiting. There’s waiting for the Lord to be born among us at Christmas.But there’s also another waiting, and that’s waiting for the Lord’s second coming, when his plan for all of us will reach its fulfilment. Most of us find hard to wait nowadays.We expect instant results, immediate answers to texts, same-day delivery for all our online purchases. Advent waiting isn’t like that at all. Because its a waiting that’s infused with the « already » of what Christ has achieved for us, but the « not yet » of its having reached its fulfilment. Advent teaches us to be humble then. We learn that we are not in control, but that God is. We realise that we just can’t have everything « now ».But that God will look after our needs when he sees fit.And we realize most of all, that the important things, the beautiful things, the things that really count, the things of God, are in fact the things that are worth waiting for.