Rejoice! Be happy at all times… What wonderful words to hear from the readings of today, as we come together in the dark of winter. Even though the bright lights may be glistening everywhere, and there is an incessant call to celebrate and to party; still, for many it may be a dark and bleak time.
There are parts of the Gospel reading that also point to joy, perhaps in less explicit ways. There are the hopeful questions from the Pharisees that demonstrate their belief that the promised Messiah is expected, that he would come.
We, the Christian community, today, can rejoice because our Messiah did come. God kept – and continues to keep – God’s promises. So, we rightly Rejoice!
As I write this reflection, the 3rd Sunday of Advent is five weeks away. The lands where these readings were first uttered are experiencing unspeakable strife and devastation. The message from the news headlines do not give us cause to rejoice or be happy. Yet we still must hope, hope that captives will be freed, that the hungry and thirsty will be satisfied, that there will be healing for the injured and relief for the weary, and hope that all peoples will be “wrapped in a mantle of justice”.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could heed St. Paul’s advice: “pray constantly and give thanks”? Pray, that minds and hearts may be changed, that God’s peace may break through. And give thanks for the peace and blessing that we, in our part of the world, so easily take for granted.
When hearing today’s First Reading (from Isaiah), I immediately think of the time when Jesus entered the synagogue, read this text and concluded with the phrase: “Today these words are fulfilled in your hearing”.
Hopefully, the encouraging words of our liturgy today, are fulfilled for each of us, for the peoples of Palestine and Israel, Ukraine, Sudan and elsewhere, for the weary and burdened everywhere.
The “O Antiphons” begin today. These antiphons became the verses for the popular Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Today we pray:
You came forth from the mouth of the Most High
and reaching from beginning to end,
You ordered all things mightily and sweetly.
Come and teach us the way of prudence.