The season of Advent is about hope in the midst of despair (we need to remember that repentance for our sins during Penance leads to forgiveness from God). It renews a sense of purpose and commitment in the midst of turmoil (are you giving to the poor during the busy holiday season?). It ultimately reminds us that God’s dream for humanity is growing towards fulfillment (Luke 2:11 “For unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord”).
In our first reading, Isaiah speaks about hope and renewal. Amidst the overwhelming despair and disillusionment his people felt at the time, he reminded them that God would satisfy their thirst for justice and hunger for integrity. Isaiah summoned their courage and invited them to look beyond their present predicament to a time of renewal and restoration. He called them to commit themselves to working anew for the realization of God’s dream. “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Isaiah 11:1)
Today, in the midst of many situations of seeming hopelessness, it’s easy for us to become frustrated and even numb. We feel as though we can’t make a difference in the lives of the suffering. Yet Isaiah reminds us that strength of faith and the power of love is what we need. In opening our eyes and hearts to the sufferings of those around us, hope can be awakened, a hope that allows us to see things from the perspective of God. Our responsorial psalm (Psalms 72: 12-13) reminds us of this hope “for he shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save”. How are you helping the poor and lowly this holiday season? One great way is to take a gift tag from one of the Giving Trees at our churches and buy a gift for someone less fortunate.
Isaiah is also referenced in today’s Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12) when he prophesied about John the Baptist “A voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Isaiah 40:3). And that’s what John the Baptist did. He came out of the wilderness dressed in clothing made of camel’s hair and spoke of God’s word of truth, justice and love. John’s message is like that of the whistle blower, a timely reference in today’s world. It reveals the uncomfortable truths; it challenged not only the rulers, high priests and people of his time, it also challenges us today to look at ourselves and discover those uncomfortable truths that we hide behind. What are the uncomfortable truths we each need to bring to the forefront and deal with? What are we hiding? What winding ways need to be straightened? In the Gospel, John sounds a warning to awake our consciences. He calls us individually to remove the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of Christ’s coming.
During this Advent season, let us also remember that Christ comes to us in a divine way each time we go to Mass. During the Consecration, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive Holy Communion, we share in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, knowing He will be with us until the end of time.
Advent is also a time we seek to nourish ourselves more deeply from the source of Christ’s life and love. We look to prune and purify ourselves of the things that keep us from being true to our Christian mission. Our goal must be to learn to live more simply and become a more authentic sign of Christ’s presence and love in the world.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.