Reflection by Bishop Enrique Díaz: “We await the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ”

1st Sunday of Advent

Bishop Enrique Díaz Díaz shares with the readers of Exaudi his reflection on the Gospel for this Sunday 3 December 2023, entitled: “We await the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ”.


Isaiah 63, 16-17.19; 64, 2-7: “O Lord, would that you would rend the heavens and come down”.

Psalm 79: “Lord, show us your mercy”.

I Corinthians 1:3-9: “We are waiting for the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

St. Mark 13, 33-37: “Watch, for you do not know at what hour the master of the house will return”.

With great care, with affection, he cleans the work he has in his hands. It is almost unrecognisable, but it is a magnificent oil painting that has lost its beauty and sharpness with the passage of time, a lot of humidity and a great deal of neglect. Smoke, wax and dust have kept it in a corner, unnoticed and despised. Now, the penetrating eye of a connoisseur and the skilful hands of an artist are gradually restoring its beauty. “Only true connoisseurs can recognise it through all the dirt and rescue its beauty. Only those who have a great love for it can devote so many hours to it, perhaps more than when it was originally created,” one of the helpers told me. Restoring a work requires knowledge, perseverance and love.

“Our righteousness was like a filthy rag,” Isaiah says, and that is how he feels along with his people, Israel: like a neglected work, a forgotten jar, a piece of filth that everyone discards. His words are the sad lament of one who finds himself abandoned and with no way out, but through his own fault. Although there is a complaint about the distance he feels from God, he recognises that it is the people who have turned away from the commandments and who have hardened their hearts to the point of not fearing him, and in his lament before the Lord he expresses the pain of feeling abandoned. The whole situation is clear: by forgetting God, he is lost. These feelings are not alien to the feelings of our people: we recognise that we are lost in a senseless world, we are anguished by violence and treacherous crimes, and we are unsettled by programmes that offer happiness but leave us empty. We embark on new campaigns, hopeful in our own strength or in the fine words of a new leader, only to find ourselves emptier and more full of doubts and anguish. Are we really lost?

Are these the words of Isaiah’s time? Are these the words of our time? We have managed justice to our own liking, we make the rules, and then we break them, we leave the person and the name of God in oblivion, and then, instead of giving life, justice really becomes a filthy rag. How many people are in prison because the money was not enough for their defence? How many people run freely through life protected by their money, their influence and their power, even though they have committed real crimes? And so on in many other situations. For example, it is unjust that the gospel cannot be freely proclaimed in public places, in the media and even permission has to be requested for celebrations, but that the truth can be freely manipulated in the same media, that programmes are presented where violence is lived to the hilt, where people are presented as merchandise, where arrogance is exalted and where the only thing that counts is economic interests. God has been expelled from our lives. And if we look at each one of us, we will find ourselves, as Isaiah says, “withered like leaves, and our faults take us away like the wind”. And the reason lies within our hearts: we do not call on the name of God, we have turned away from his commandments, and so we are at the mercy of our faults. If we do not have the reference of “He who created us”, our whole life loses its meaning.

Is all lost, is there nothing we can do? While Isaiah’s words are harsh, his experience of God is more comforting. It would seem that this is the first time in the whole of the Old Testament that God is literally called Father, and he does so with a tenderness and assurance that can lift the most discouraged. It is true that it is difficult to restore what has been deformed, it is true that traces of pain and wounds will remain, but it is also true that we are in the hands of the best Potter, the one who loves us most, the one who never gives up in spite of our obstinacy, the one who again and again takes our clay to restore us and make us like Him again. St. Paul insists very much on this faithfulness of God who never ceases to seek us and who is at the door with affection to rescue us. He sends us his Son so that he can restore the divine image in each one of us, so that we can live with dignity as true persons and children of God.

Advent is a time of waiting and hope. If we look only at our actions and our prospects, we will feel lost, but we are in the hands of our Father God, who looks at us with great love despite our sins, who sends his Son to save us, who is always faithful. We cannot live in pessimism! The season of Advent opens us to hope: the Saviour is coming again; and it also opens us to hope, because He will be able to restore us as the true image of God. From the dirty and filthy rag, Jesus rescues the living image of the first creation. He becomes flesh as an infant to remake in us the divine image. This is the first Sunday of Advent: let us awaken our hope and let us awaken our expectation: “Watch and be ready”. The Lord Jesus is coming, the only Owner of the house, our only Owner. Let us prepare ourselves for this special time of Advent, let us prepare our hearts to receive the Messiah. Let us awaken from our modesty, let us rekindle our faith in the God who is Father, who is faithful, who loves us, who takes us in his loving hands as a Potter and restores us. Let us begin the Advent journey, like Isaiah, let us cry out: “Lord, turn for the sake of your servants. Tear the heavens and come down, for we need your presence”.

Father God, Good Father, who with tender love have formed us, come to the rescue of your children who are lost in the paths of injustice and perversion. Send your Son who, sharing our life, may restore in us your divine life. Amen.