December 9, 2014 Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14
Reflection by Sister Mary Albertine Stachowski, cssf
Comfort … give comfort to my people says your God!
For the second time in three days (Sunday and today) … we hear this first reading from Isaiah. It is a message of hope to the captive Israel as their time of captivity comes to a close. God calls Israel back to Himself after their long exile. We don’t often associate strength or power with tenderness … yet these are exactly what Isaiah weaves together as he proclaims a hopeful and comforting message.
Isaiah proclaims that God is restoring His people and revealing the glory of the Lord to them. Comfort is a prevailing theme … as the Jewish exile comes to an end.
God comes with power … but it is a special kind of power. It is a protective power … gentle and strong at the same time. It is the image that is presented in the gospel … Jesus … like a shepherd seeks out the stray … scoops it up and cradles it in his arms … bringing it back safely to the flock.
Both readings confirm how God cares for us. The point is made … even if we stray … or wander around … God loves us unconditionally and will deliver us.
What a thought!
May this message bring us comfort … and help us to make our lives a little better … especially during this Advent season.
The prophet Isaiah was someone who felt and brought to articulate expression the Advent attitude of yearning. He gives us, in the second chapter of his book, an image which has burned its way into the consciousness of believers up and down the centuries. That image is of God’s holy mountain, the place where the deepest longings of the heart are fulfilled: “In the days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.”
This vision is of the future; it is not here, but it is coming, held out to us as a realistic hope. And what is the substance of it? That the mountain of the Lord’s house will be highest.
That mountain is Zion, where the temple of Yahweh was situated. It was the place of right praise.
On the biblical reading, the key to happiness is nothing other than right praise, worship of the true God. For when we give glory to God in the highest, we rightly order all of our desires: we love God first and then all other things for the sake of God. Bad praise – getting this order out of whack – is always what goes wrong with us. It’s the result of allowing wealth, or pleasure, or power, or honor to become the highest mountain.
But when the worship of the true God is established as the highest mountain, then it will function as a magnet, drawing all people to itself. This beautiful image – all of the tribes and nations streaming toward Zion – haunted and continues to haunt the religious imagination of believers all over the world.
We pray “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.” That is a spiritual formula: when God is given glory in the highest, then peace will obtain among us here below.