1st Sunday Advent B: Tear Open the Heavens and Come Down!

By Father Isidore Clarke

Impatiently, the Psalmist, speaking for his people, exclaims, “Arouse Yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our affliction and our oppression?” He was desperate. Where was God? Has He forgotten us? Does He no longer care for us?

These are the anxieties and doubts, which the prophet Isaiah expressed in today’s First Reading as well when he cries, “Tear open the heavens and come down!” God’s people had just returned joyfully from exile in Babylon. But they’d found their land devastated, Jerusalem in ruins, its temple destroyed. They had become depressed by the arduous task of re-building their lives. This explains why the prophet begged God to tear open the heavens and come down to help them.

God has responded magnificently to our needs and to our longings. He has torn the heavens open and come to save us. His Son, the Word of God, has become flesh and dwelt among us. He has shared our human life, so that we could share His divine life and happiness. God could not have paid the human race a greater compliment than by joining it!

The heavens were torn open and God came to our rescue most decisively at the moment of Christ’s death. This was dramatically symbolized when the veil of the Temple was split from top to bottom. That divided the Temple into God’s dwelling place in the Holy of Holies, and man’s domain. Only on the Day of Atonement could the High Priest enter the Holy of Holies. But with His death Jesus tore asunder the barrier separating man from God. Through the blood of the cross He has atoned for our sins; He has made our peace with God. Through Jesus God has torn open the heavens. One of us, Jesus, now dwells as High Priest in the Holy of Holies. Through Him we now have free access to God.

Advent is a special time for us to reflect on our need for God to come to save us from the power of sin. This holy season brings with it the special graces for us to enter into the wonder of Christmas; the wonder of the Son of God becoming a human baby, while remaining truly God. At that moment the Son of God became forever a member of the human race, forever committed to us. Nothing can destroy God’s love for us.

Especially during Advent we should long for God to tear open the heavens and come down to save us, personally, to remove the veil of sin, preventing us from approaching God. Now, more than ever, we should want God to come alive in each one of us and transform us, so that we can embrace the salvation Jesus has already won for us.

Jesus has promised to return in glory at the end of time. That should fill us with hope of eternal happiness with Him, rather than fill us with fear. During Advent we will sing, “Oh, come, oh come, Emmanuel.” That expresses our need for Jesus, our longings for Him to enter ever more deeply into our lives, and we into His.