If there is any one insight into the nature of things that is common to everyone it would have to be that the world is imperfect.
Just experience teachers us that one of the first challenges of human living is to develop an attitude that will allow us to make a certain amount of peace with imperfection. And for centuries, human beings have sought for that attitude.
Some of those searchers have concluded that imperfection in the world is simply the way it is. Satisfaction depends on training oneself to live in as small a world as possible, training oneself not to know about imperfection and the suffering it causes or, if awareness is unavoidable, then at least not to care.
But for many others that answer doesn’t satisfy. They labour under too strong a conviction that the human condition should be better than it is. Traditionally such as these have been history’s visionaries, poets, and prophets.
The first reading today is taken from the writings of just one such visionary, the prophet Isaiah. He was writing for an oppressed people, and yet his vision is one of perfect peace, a vision of a world of people who have beaten their swords into plowshares, people who have no use for weapons.
But in Issiah’s vision it is not humanity that will make the world perfect, it is God. And, in that, Isaiah takes his place among a very special band of visionaries. A band with roots in the earliest covenant of the Old Testament that finds its fullest expression in the visions of Paul, John, and Christ himself.
And in their visions, we who are Christians find ourselves confronted with the truth that the God who made the world, who redeemed it and claimed it, will one day return to the world to make it fully his own, to make it perfect.
This weekend we begin the Season of Advent, a season in which we reflect on the fact that it is a very Christian thing to learn to wait with patience, with confidence, and with vigilance.
In the second reading, St. Paul writes about the sacred quality of Christian waiting. Our waiting is a sacred thing because this longed-for coming is something that has already begun.
God has already been here in his Son, and he is here now in his Spirit. As we wait for his final coming, we must be so very much aware of the opportunities his already present Spirit gives us to hasten the day when Isaiah’s vision will be like a reality. We are, right now, today, very much involved in the coming of the New Kingdom. Paul calls us to do nothing that will dull out longing for the coming of Christ or mask our awareness of the fact that he is on his way. The way which the great Advent prophet, John the Baptist, urges us to make straight.