The prophet Isaiah’s pretty much got it right, I figure: It must all be God’s fault.
‘Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?’, the prophet asks in the opening lines of today’s first reading.
And I wanted to say in reply, ‘Yeah: FIX it, Lord! Fix it NOW!’ Because frankly, I have no earthly idea what we can do to address the painful situations we’ve gotten ourselves into.
Things came to a head for me during last night’s 9:00 news, broadcast by a local TV outlet. The lead stories recounted protests at malls in St. Louis…and across the country… connected to the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting. And my heart ached for those who clearly have so little confidence in the justice system – those who’ve learned, through painful experience, that a different set of rules often applies depending on the color of your skin.
Then as the stories about the protests wrapped up, the anchor turned to a series of reports on overnight violence in the St. Louis region. Murders – three or four of them in separate locations across the city’s northside, all in predominantly black neighborhoods. And my heart ached again: ‘Those black lives matter, too,’ I thought. ‘Who will protest their loss?’
Next, it was on to the Middle East…and a story about Pope Francis visiting Turkey…where he called on Muslim leaders to stop the systematic persecution (and extermination) of Christians in Iraq, Syria and beyond.
It was depressing, on the whole, to consider just how cheap human lives seem to have become – both here at home, and across the globe. It was frightening to contemplate the overwhelming impact of sin in the world – as if to confirm the prophet Isaiah’s observation: ‘All of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags.’
And in the midst of all this mess, Advent begins.
Our time of waiting.
It is not a time for despair, as St. Paul reminds us: ‘You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.’
Nor is it a time for quick fixes, as Jesus himself teaches us: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.’
Still, it’s not easy to wait.
‘Can’t you see? Our hearts are aching, Lord.’
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.