Scripture: Lectionary 183. Isaiah 40:1-11. Psalm 96:1-18.104.22.168-12.13. Matthew 18:12-14:
Our first reading from Isaiah (Deutero-Isaiah) is a prologue to the collection of the beautiful hymns of Consolation and Comfort. This prelude contains the themes that they hymns will bring out with thick description and prophetic meaning. We will not only see them from time to time in our liturgical readings; they are part of the Lenten journey as we probably are aware of them in Holy Week. Today the Advent season is the focus of our reflection on this prelude. It starts with the words “Comfort, oh comfort my people, says your God. This comfort will occurs swiftly and repeatedly” (Ibn Ezra). A voice rings out that a way must be prepared, a road for the Lord. This voice is that of the Holy Spirit (God) according to Rashi. God is going straight into the hearts of those who listen and are open to these words of comfort and consolation. We are to imagine ourselves being set free from the slavery of Egypt and that of Babylon—both are indicated in the reading.
We recognize that this proclamation is the one declared by John the Baptist who prepares for the coming of the Lord. A theology of divine punishment and forgiveness are behind this passage of Deutero-Isaiah. We are to ascend to Mount Zion, the new Jerusalem, the holy city of God. The Word of God summons us more strongly than ritual sacrifices. The mouth of the Holy One—God speaks directly to us during this season of Advent.
Psalm 96 allows us to enter into a prayerful experience of what is being proclaimed in the first reading. We do well to use this as our last prayer of this day while pondering it over and recalling the liturgical readings.
In the Gospel for this day of Advent Jesus is portrayed as a shepherd who cares for each of his sheep. He leaves the flock to find the wandering sheep or the lost lamb. He keeps searching and looking until he finds each one of us and then we rejoice as he carries us back to where we belong. There is a period of waiting till we are found.
This waiting is part of the Advent experience, in fact, it what Advent is all about. We know that “the Presence of the Lord shall appear, and all flesh, as one, shall behold—for the Lord Himself has spoken.” Marana tha, Come, O Lord Jesus! Amen. (see Isaiah 40:5).
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.