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The first reading from Isaiah is a sincere admission of humanity’s guilt for sin and wrongdoing. People have strayed from the right path and abandoned the way of the Lord. Isaiah leads us to ponder how we have hardened our hearts, how unclean we have become, how polluted our actions have become.

And yet, as sincere is the acknowledgement of sins is the confidence in the power God. God, though he might have been angry with our infidelity, is the only one we can turn to once we start desiring to reform ourselves. Nothing can dim the fact that God is our father, the father who remains devoted even to wayward children. And then Isaiah turns to an image of God the Father that is most unusual but very instructive and true – God is a potter, and we are clay in his hands.

Have you ever seen a potter at work? The clay he shapes in his hands never turn out perfect at once. First, it is disfigured. Then it breaks. Then, it leans too much this way or that. But the potter is always patient to repeat the process until he gets the perfect shape.

And God our Father is like that. He patiently re-shapes us when we come to him. He gives us chance upon another chance to be exactly what we must be. If only we allow God to work on us, our lives will slowly change for the better.

The second reading from 1 Corinthians makes Paul assure us that in fact, we are filled with spiritual gifts because God is always faithful. Our lives may not always be focused on the Lord but God is always faithful. If only we return to him humbly, he will manifest his readiness to embrace us again.

Here we are at the doorsteps of another Advent, the time to prepare for the coming of the Lord. For many of us, it is the proximate preparation for Christmas. And yet it is really beyond Christmas that our hearts must yearn for. The Lord will come again and we must be ready to encounter him. “Be watchful! Be alert,” the Lord Jesus tells us in the gospel.

How do we live this watchfulness and alertness to the surprise coming of God? The best preparation is to humbly accept that many times in our lives, even during the past months of this near-passing year, we have been comfortable with our sins and wrongdoing. Filled with spiritual gifts, our endowments were muddled by our sins that they were unable to shine.

What have we done with our lives? How have we treated our family? What gifts have we misused, abused or wasted this year? In what ways have we failed God?

If you are willing to go through the potter’s hands, God will give us the chance to have a new heart ready to joyfully encounter him.