Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
I was standing in the cathedral undercroft near where one of my heroes was buried–El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero. People had gathered there for a Sunday Mass during Advent. The lector began the first reading.
“Consuela a mi pueblo,” she proclaimed. Comfort my people. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. In the sermon, the presider put it more bluntly: “Things don’t have to be the way they are.”
I was moved to hear Isaiah’s message proclaimed near Archbishop Romero’s tomb. Romero had died for the truth of this message. “I beg you, I implore you, in God’s name, I order you,” he cried out during El Salvador’s brutal civil war, “stop the repression!” A soldier gunned him down while he offered Mass.
Jerusalem was suffering from invasions and oppression when the message in Isaiah was written. So many cities still struggle today. The civil war is over, but gang violence and poverty continue to plague San Salvador. In many U.S. cities (including my own), people have been demonstrating for racial justice. War ravages Syria and Iraq. Things don’t have to be the way they are. Comfort my people. Speak tenderly. Prepare the way.
What one thing might you do in your part of the world to help bring about the reign of God?
—Mary Anne Reese is a lawyer, poet, and member of Bellarmine Chapel, a Jesuit parish in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life
—Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
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