Leave no one behind

Since the beginning of Advent this year we have heard from the Prophet Isaiah. The verses have all been brimming with Hope. Take today’s first reading. “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.” (Isa 35:1) Today’s reading continues that theme.

Isaiah’s time, like all epochs of history, shares something with our time in history. It has been hard times over the last several years because of the impact of the covid pandemic, the growing divide among Americans, and now the looming uncertainty of the omicron version of covid-19. We hunker down, we carry on, and we do what we can.  Some among us lead with Hope. Some among us have retreated into different kinds of shells, keeping the world at bay, keeping Hope at a distance.

To all who hope and carry on as we are called to do, Isaiah reminds us: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!” (Isa 35:3-4). It is the “leave no one behind” call for our time, for all times.

Gaudete, Zephaniah and Joy

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Advent in Year C of the lectionary cycle. It is also known as Guadete Sunday. While the theme of Advent is a focus on the coming of Jesus in three ways: his first, his present, and his final Advent, the readings for Gaudete Sunday deal with rejoicing in the Lord – Christian joy – as well as the mission of John the Baptist and his connection with Advent. The theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness. While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is “the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.” Continue reading