People who want to be happy should not read newspapers, watch the news on the television or listen to it on the radio. There is so much bad news everywhere, about war or about the cost of heating our homes or buying food. Many people’s lives are getting more difficult every day. Some have told me they don’t pay attention to the news any more, because they think that it is so depressing. Even if we avoid newspapers and news programmes, many of the people we meet talk about problems in their families, either difficulties between husbands and wives, or serious sickness. It is astonishing how many people ask us to pray for them or for their families. We do it gladly, of course, and it shows that they really trust in God and in the power of prayer. But, if we look around us, we are surrounded by difficult situations and really challenging problems.
The readings we have heard during this Mass are what we need to hear. Today’s readings encourage us to have faith in God, not to give up hope. The first reading is a beautiful vision from the prophet Isaiah, who tells us what will happen when the Messiah comes – when Jesus comes back. It is very important to see that Isaiah does not say anything here about judging you or me. He talks about barren land blooming, bringing forth flowers. He tells us that the blind will be able to see, the deaf will hear, the lame will not only walk, but they will “leap like a deer” and the dumb will not just be able to speak, but they will “sing for joy”. In other words, what Isaiah believes is that, when the Messiah comes, He will fix whatever is not right in the world. That is why he says: “Strengthen all weary hands, steady all trembling knees and say to all faint hearts, Courage! Do not be afraid”.
Jesus says something similar when He tells John the Baptist’s disciples what they should say when they go back to John and tell him what they have seen. Basically, the promise in Isaiah is that, when God takes over, He will sort out whatever is wrong in our world, all the bad news. In the Gospel, it is already happening. In Jesus, the Messiah, you can see God working among His chosen people. The challenge for us is to discover what God wants us to do for His people now, before the Messiah returns. It is time for us to work out how we fit in with what Jesus is doing to change the landscape.
Isaiah describes how the Messiah will put things right in the world. It is true that sinners will be judged and punished, but Isaiah paints a much bigger picture. In his vision, God loves the world He created, and every thing and person in it. God wants the whole of Creation to flourish and do well. Isaiah is convinced God will not allow the news to be bad for ever. We may be able to contribute to God’s work. We can make sure the news is not all bad. We can try to love God’s creation as God does. One way we can do this is by treating the world God has given us with greater respect. We can also contribute to God’s work by loving and respecting people who need our help. You are well known in the Diocese of Copenhagen for being a very generous parish; you always respond to appeals from Caritas and whenever you are asked to help. You are already doing God’s work and you make a difference. Your generosity means that the news is not all bad news, for so many people around the world.
Fr. Peter Fleetwood
Download plan for daily Mass Readings here: Advent 22 readings (pdf)