In our first reading, through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord offers a message to the Israelites in distress. “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers.”
The message is in the future tense. It is a message of hope. While things may seem grim and hopeless to the Israelites, God has a plan for a better future for them.
We further read, “say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense.” God is going to make all things right. He will open the eyes of the blind, make the deaf hear, and the lame leap. There will be a time when they will meet the Lord and their “sorrow and mourning will flee” and be replaced with “joy and gladness.” For now they wait in hope.
John the Baptist knew of the prophecies of great things to come. He does not lose hope when he is arrested and put in prison. He trusts in greater things to come. In prison he hears of the works of Jesus. He wants to be sure that Jesus is the one of whom the prophecies spoke of as the Messiah. So, he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if he is the one.
Jesus does not answer with a simple yes. He tells John’s disciples to tell John what they have heard and seen, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear…” Our first reading was in the future tense, prophecy of what is to come. With Jesus, these prophecies are fulfilled. Jesus speaks in the present tense. With the prophecies beginning to be fulfilled, it is a time to rejoice. We hear this during our season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. We examine our consciences to see if we are ready. For this, the liturgical color for Advent is violent. Today, as we hear that prophecies as fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, we rejoice. It is Gaudete Sunday. The color of the candle for today in the Advent wreath is rose, a color of warmth and joy.
Jesus did bring great rejoicing. Yet, today, we continue to face times of distress. In times of joy it is easy to believe that God exists. In times of distress it can be much harder to believe that God exists and to trust that He is with us always.
When we face distress, we need to look back at the Old Testament as the story of God’s love for his people. The Israelites faced times of distress. The times of distress came when the people did not listen to God and did their own thing. When they repented and returned to God’s ways, prosperity would come.
Many people no longer follow the Lord. Thus, we are in times of distress. Repeating the words from our first reading, “say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be Strong, fear not!” We who desire to follow the Lord, hope and pray for everything to be better. For now, we heed the words of James, “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.”
When we grow a garden, we know we must wait for the harvest. As we wait for the coming of the Lord, let us make our hearts firm, recalling how the prophets of old faced hardship and how Jesus suffered for us.
We wait in hope of the Lord’s promise of the life to come.