The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocusit shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
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
One can almost hear the tambourines shaking with joy and the horns sounding in triumph to lead the procession of captives back to Israel from Babylon. Isaiah evokes such a marvelous picture of what life will be like when the Messiah comes to save His people. Concrete examples of joy abound: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble; make firm the knees that are weak.” Those of us of a certain age can identify with what this would mean! “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong, fear not!” Wonderful words and a great desire! “Here is your God; He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.”
The prophecy rolls on promising sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the lame in a land of fertility with animals tame and friendly. What a terrific scene of people moving toward freedom in a great march back to their homeland; a people full of hope and joy; a people letting go of the past to embrace the great possibilities of the future provided by a loving and compassionate God who desires to extend His mercy to all of them.
What about my own journey through Advent? Have we experienced the freedom which God wants for us as we move toward Christmas? Is there a joyous song in my heart today? Do I look forward to a better tomorrow because God has intervened in my life? So much depends on whether I invite God into my life, whether I prepare myself for His saving love. The challenge for me amidst the many demands before Christmas is whether I can allow myself to approach “…a highway [which] will be there, called the holy way.” Do I really believe God calls me to this holy way, the way I live my life amidst the many demands of work and family living? Do I really believe in God’s love for me as the people returning to Israel felt that love?
Mary, mother of Jesus and our mother, is a wonderful companion along this “highway”…this “holy way.” Ask her this feast day to walk with you and your family towards the hope of Christmas.
—Fr. John Libens, S.J. is superior of the 69 retired Jesuits living at Colombiere Center, Clarkston, Michigan. This Jesuit Community prays each day for the special intentions of those making prayer requests to www.jesuitprayer.org
Hail Mary, the most beautiful dove, which carried the word of God for us. We greet you with the Archangel Gabriel saying: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Hail, O Virgin, the glory of our race– you have borne Emanuel for us. We beg you to remember us before the Lord Jesus Christ, that he will forgive our sins and fill our hearts with hope. Amen.