This Sunday is the first Sunday of advent. Advent is the first of the five liturgical seasons in the Church’s calendar. The four others are Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time. These five liturgical seasons have various unique elements that make each of them especially important in the spiritual life and growth of individual members of the Church. One of the distinctive elements of the season of advent is the first readings that come from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah is the prophet who, despite his unworthiness for the call of God, answered, “Here I am, send me” when God was looking for someone to send to minister to his people. (Is 6:8).
Isaiah, one of the most prominent prophets in the Old Testament bible, was called by God to minister to the people at a critical time in the history of Israel. It was a time of confusion, faithlessness, and sociopolitical unrest. There were many misunderstandings, wars, and desecration of holy places across the northern kingdoms and beyond.
In the midst of all that, God needed to send a loyal and courageous prophet for a unique prophetic ministry among his people. This ministry would involve declaring the impending doom that awaits sinners who persist in their sinfulness and the proclamation of the sovereignty of God among the people. In proclaiming God’s power, the chosen prophet shall also announce the coming of the Son of God – the Emmanuel. This Son of God shall save sinners if they repent from their sinfulness and accept God as their Lord and Savior. The task was enormous and would require someone of high intelligence, holiness, and integrity. Although highly unqualified in every way, God chose and sent Isaiah for this prophetic ministry.
Isaiah was the least qualified. In Isaiah 6:5, he cried out: “Woe is me. I am doomed. For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips….” Isaiah was humble enough to acknowledge his absolute unworthiness for the ministry that God called him. But as God wills, “He calls the unqualified and qualifies them. He chooses the weak to strengthen them.” (Is 40:29; 1Cor 1:27).
Almost every day from this weekend until Christmas, our first readings shall come from the book of Isaiah. The Church intentionally arranged these liturgical readings this way to help us prepare in humility and joyful anticipation, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. While this humility defines the circumstances surrounding the birth of our Savior, we also see it in the Prophet Isaiah. He humbly acknowledged his unworthiness for the call of God. After this act of humility, the Prophet also had the courage to say, “Here I am, send me,” when God was searching for whom to send.
As we begin this season of hope, let us ask God to grant us the grace of the virtues of humility and courage. HUMILITY to acknowledge God’s blessings, love, and mercy in our lives. And COURAGE to accept and welcome God’s will and plan for our lives.