There is great cause for rejoicing this Sunday. The Lord comes not as judge, but as Savior. This is a God who would rather forgive than punish. He always gives a second chance. The Advent Season always demonstrates God’s wonderful goodness and His desire that creation achieve eternal happiness. God constantly works to make this happen. No wonder Advent is a Season of Hope.
All week the Church has set forth for us the nature of God. The fiery prophet Elijah is center stage in today’s reading. A belief developed that Elijah would return and put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord. Pius Jews drink an Elijah cup at their Seder meals, believing that his return would herald the imminent return of the Messiah. The NT sees John the Baptist in this role.
God is redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, and now, Isaiah says He is also teacher. God teaches us through the commandments. OT thought equates obedience to God’s commandments with Israel’s prosperity. God always leads us on a path that will result in redemption and salvation.
The words from the Second Isaiah are meant to be words of reassurance to a people in exile. God has not abandoned them. He will be their redeemer. God makes promises of divine care that he intends to keep. He makes those same kind of assurances to us no matter how bad things might seem.
Today the normal progression of Advent is set aside as we honor Mary as the patroness of the Americas where it is a full-blown Feast Day, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mary appears to a peasant, Juan Diego. His origins were as humble as Mary’s. He is astonished, like her, that God has called him out for such a great service. While we may not be called out to such a lofty vocation like Juan, and, especially, not like Mary, we have a calling, too. Today, would be a special time to ask for Mary’s help to discern our calling.
Today’s First Reading is from the so-called “Book of Consolation,” from a man scripture scholars call “Deutero-Isaiah,” the “Second Isaiah.” “Comfort, give comfort to My people…” “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” If you can, read all 14 verses. They will be familiar to you and very comforting. The author was describing the return from exile which will be like the first Exodus. God will lead them back as of old. Things will again be as they should. This section will remind you of John the Baptist and the start of Jesus’ public ministry. “…the glory of the Lord will be revealed…” in the person of Jesus Christ.
Both readings today test our capacity for awe, for wonder and amazement. Isaiah sets before us a distant utopian age in which all the woes that, then and now, beset mankind vanish and are replaced by the kind of idyllic world for which we all long. Advent is about waiting, and waiting assumes something lies ahead.