MT 24: 37-44
In this first Sunday of Advent, the first reading we hear in the liturgy comes from the prophet Isaiah. Anticipating the coming redemption of the people of Israel, the prophet proclaims, “in days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many people shall come and say: ‘Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain!’” As the new liturgical year begins, then, we are given the inspiring and exuberant image of going up to the top of the mountain to be one with God. This sounds great. If only it were that easy! As the Christian story unfolds, though, it becomes apparent that we are just not very good climbers of the mountains before us. We can’t make it up there. We try and then we slip back. Or we get dragged down by sin and fear and discouragement. But God has compassion on us as try even so ineffectively. In the end, as the Christian story goes, we don’t ever make it up that mountain, at least not on our own. Instead, God comes down from that mountain and “condescends” to be one with us, joining us in our weakness and frailty and smallness. He takes flesh and dwells among us first as a defenseless baby and then at the end in the humiliation and defeat of the Cross. We want to go up the mountain but since we can’t do it, the Lord comes down to us in our poverty to lift us up to be one with him. The way we end up getting up there, then, is by surrendering in our own poverty and love to him who has become poor and small for us. The word Advent means “coming toward,” as in God coming toward us, down from the mountain, as it were. As we begin this new liturgical year, then, in the first week of Advent, we do well to take a breath, sigh and cry out from our own smallness and frailty to the Lord and say, Come Lord Jesus! Come and dwell with us at the bottom of the mountain and help us to say yes to your plan to lift us up to be one with you on your mountain!
Fr. Chris Collins, S.J. is Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity.