Tag Archives: Isaiah

2nd Sunday of Advent: “Go with Joy”

In the time of Jesus pilgrims from Galilee came up to Jerusalem a number of ways. Many came down the Jordan Valley, a journey of 90 miles. When they reached the city of Jericho they turned eastward onto a steep, winding road that ascended for 3500 feet and 15 miles to the city of Jerusalem. A picture taken from an airplane in the 1930s shows that winding, climbing road through the desert. It had to be the hardest part of their journey.Jericho Rd  3
Jericho road modern

Now travelers go that route in air-conditioned buses. It took ancient travelers four days. Not it’s a few hours.

The bible sees the journey to Jerusalem, especially the last part up that steep winding desert road as a symbol of our journey to God. We’re pilgrims on our way, The way’s still hard, even with air-conditioned buses.

John the Baptist preached where that winding, climbing road began. His father, Zachariah, a priest in the temple in Jerusalem, told him at his birth: “You, my child shall be called a prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.” (Luke 1)

John invited weary pilgrims into the refreshing waters of the Jordan river, that they might be strengthened for the journey.

John Baptist preaching

Last week readings warned about falling asleep through complacency and laziness. This week readings remind us the day by day journey can tire us,  Life can wear us out, even a life doing good.

Then, unexpected things, like sickness, failures and disappointments, come along, robbing our energy. The parable of the Good Samaritan happened on this road to Jerusalem. Unexpected things happen.

John the Baptist, and the Prophet Isaiah before him, spoke to weary pilgrims. “‘Comfort, give comfort to my people,’ says the Lord…They spoke words of hope to those on the way:

With God’s help, the winding, climbing, wearying road becomes a highway; every valley  filled in, every mountain and hill made low, the rugged land  made plain, the crooked way straight.

The Lord is ” a shepherd feeding his flock, in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40: 1-5,9-11) So don’t be afraid.

Advent is a beautiful season. “Go up with joy to the house of the Lord.”

What You Find in the First Week of Advent

The daily Advent readings at Mass for the first week of Advent are beautifully arranged..

In the Old Testament readings,  the Prophet Isaiah speaks as a fierce Assyrian army heads towards Jerusalem. Bad times ahead, but the prophet sees something else. All nations are streaming to God’s mountain.

The nations will come to God’s mountain, Jerusalem, where the temple stands, the prophet says.  They’ll be fed a rich banquet (Wednesday),  the poor will triumph (Thursday),  the blind will see (Friday). Safe on this rock, children play around the cobra’s den, and the lion and the lamb lie down together (Tuesday). The prophet  challenges us to see our world in another way.

In the gospels  Jesus Christ fulfills the Isaian prophecies. The Roman centurion, humbly approaching Jesus in Capernaum, represents all nations approaching him. (Monday)  Jesus praises the childlike;  they will enter the kingdom of heaven.(Tuesday)  He feeds a multitude on the mountain.(Wednesday) His kingdom is built on rock.(Thursday)  He gives sight to the blind to find their way.  (Friday)

Many Advent readings in these early weeks of Advent are from the gospel of Matthew, who portrays Jesus teaching on a mountain (Isaiah’s favorite symbol). His miracles affect all. Jesus is the new temple, the Presence of God, Emmanuel, God with us. He brings hope beyond human hope.

Lord, help us see what you and the prophets see.

Advent Readings: Week 2

Advent_heading copy 2To reach God’s holy mountain there’s a journey to make, Isaiah says, but guides will show the way. “Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, to prepare your way.” Mark 1, 1. John the Baptist appears in the desert promising forgiveness  to those washing in the waters of the Jordan River. We have been baptized in the waters of baptism.

The Old Testament readings this Advent week, mostly from Isaiah, describe a desert journey,  but the desert will bloom and a highway will be there, the prophet promises. (Monday) God will speak tender, comforting words to his people on the way. (Tuesday) Those who hope in him will renew their strength, soaring on eagle’s wings. (Wednesday) Though we are as insignificant as a worm, God holds us in his hands and says:“Fear not; I am with you.” (Thursday) God is our teacher and shows us the way  to go. (Friday) On the way, prophets like Elijah accompany us. (Saturday)

Jesus is our way, the gospel readings say. He healed and forgave the paralyzed man– symbol of a paralyzed humanity– who was lowered through the roof into the house in Capernaum. (Monday) Like a good shepherd he searches for and finds the stray sheep. (Tuesday) “Come to me all who are weary, ” he says. (Wednesday) He sends us prophets and guides like John the Baptist and Elijah.( Thursday) Though rejected like John the Baptist, Jesus still teaches. (Friday)

He will save us, even though unrecognized like John and Elijah. (Saturday)

List of Readings

Monday: Isaiah 30, 1-10 The desert will bloom and a highway will be there, a holy way.Luke 5,17-26 The paralyzed man, lowered through the roof, is healed and forgiven.

Tuesday: Isaiah 40,1-11 The desert is a way to the Lord. Comfort my people. Mattthew 18, 12-14 The shepherd searches for the stray sheep.

Wednesday: Isaiah 30,25-31 God is the strength of his people. Matthew 11,28-30   “Come to me all who are weary…”

Thursday: Isaiah 41,13-20   God says, “I will grasp you by the hand. Fear not.”Matthew 11,11-15   John the Baptist is sent like Elijah.

Friday: Isaiah 48-17-19 I teach you what’s for your good and lead you on the way to go. Matthew 11,1-19   John and Jesus rejected as teachers.

Saturday: Sirach 48,1-4; 9-11 Elijah, precursor of John. Matthew 17, 9-13   Elijah and John not recognized.

Monday: 1st Week of Advent

Readings:

Isaiah 2,1-5  All nations will come to this mountain

Matthew 8:5-11:  The Roman centurion at Capernaum.

In 8th century Jerusalem Isaiah makes glowing promises about the holy mountain, Jerusalem– all people will come there. At the same time,  Assyrian armies rumble into Palestine. “What are you talking about?” people say, “Can’t you see what’s at the door?”. But the prophet insists they will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks and there will be no wars any more.

The prophet continues making outrageous promises. There will be a cloud by day and a fire by night over this holy mountain. The mountain’s moving, on an exodus of its own. Wonderful imagery for solid institutions, like churches and nations, that have been around for centuries. You’re still on the move, and God will guide you.

The Assyrians must have had the equivalent of the Roman centurions as the backbone of their armies. If you can get to them, you’ve got the army, military analysts would say. Powerful men, loyal soldiers. They could  tell their troops: “Lay down your swords and spears,” and it would be done.

The Roman centurion in today’s gospel comes humbly before Jesus. “Lord, I am not worthy that you come under my roof, but say the word and my servant will be healed.” He comes with a faith not found in Israel.

The Messiah will touch the proud and the strong. The centurion is one of them.

 

Friday Thoughts: Heroic Virtue, The Holy Face of Jesus


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He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye,

no beauty to draw us to him.

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—Isaiah 53:2


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There is a great hero alive this very moment.

He’s running into a burning building to rescue a small child.

He’s chasing down a thief who nabbed a pocketbook from a helpless old lady.

He’s performing CPR on a middle-aged man in the midst of a heart attack.

He’s keeping diligent watch over the safety of a nation.

But there is no “burning building”, no “thief”, no “heart attack.” And the “nation” he watches over is his own home.

Oh, but there is crisis, there are certainly trials.

There are countless situations and scenarios that require heroic virtue.

For the child he rescues lives in a foreclosing home, the helpless old lady he aides is robbed by dementia, the middle-aged man he resuscitates is his own brother who desperately needs a sober ride home.

And “he”, our hero, is not just one man. He is several, and numerous, and he wears all kinds of different clothes.

And like that ultimate superhero, the one our childhood comic books ceaselessly proclaim, he spends most of his other waking hours in a job that appears rather mundane.

His “telephone booth”—where he quickly straps on his boots, belt, and cape—is often a tiny bathroom—into which he quietly enters and calmly closes the door, only to clasp his face and let out a silent cry. He sometimes even falls to his knees, begging God for strength. But he only has a minute.

He cant help but look in the mirror as he regains his composure and dries his face, preparing to head back into the arena. What he sees looks old and unfamiliar. That’s not the face of adolescent dreams.

And the door is opened and out walks our hero to save the scene.


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Yet it was our pain that he bore,

our sufferings he endured.

We thought of him as stricken,

struck down by God and afflicted…

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—Isaiah 53:4-5


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—Howard Hain

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