Give Comfort to My People
Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Jeremiah R. Grosse
Reproduced with Permission

The Babylonian exile has ended and the people are now returning to the city of Jerusalem after being gone for almost forty years. This is the context for our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

The Temple had been destroyed years earlier by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army. Many of the families which had initially been taken captive into Babylon decided to stay since they had intermarried among the Babylonians.

With all this as a backdrop, the Prophet Isaiah, speaking on God’s behalf, says, “Comfort, give comfort to my people. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim that her service is at an end and her guilt is expiated.”

The newly returned residents of Jerusalem certainly do not feel like their service has come to an end or that their guilt has been expiated. There is nothing left of the Jerusalem that they remembered. For the people, their relationship with God was directly linked to the Temple, but now that is all gone. How can they believe that God has removed their guilt based upon everything they see around them?

The residents of New Orleans’ ninth ward were forced to flee for their lives after the levies broke. The driving winds and the huge amount of water left such an enormous path of destruction that the entire area looked like Dresden, Germany after World War II. Two years ago I made a retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Covington, Louisiana and was able to see the damage firsthand. There were no supermarkets, no restaurants, and no clothing stores. Everything the residents would have remembered when they left to go to Texas and elsewhere was now gone. Many decided to stay where they have moved to, but most chose to move back.

The mayor told the people that it will take time, but eventually things will return to normal. How can anything possible return to normal after all of that devastation?

A voice cries out that in the desert the people must make a highway for their God. Highways were made for victorious generals and triumphant rulers. The Temple may be destroyed, but that should not lead the people to believe that God has abandoned them. God uses covenant language such as “my people” to show the people of Israel that He has not forsaken them.

God is telling His people to live as though everything had been restored to them even though they do not see it yet. God does not make promises that He will not keep. Even though the people are struggling as they attempt to rebuild what had been destroyed, God tells them to go up on a high mountain and cry out in a loud voice that the people of Judah should not fear because “Here is your God.”

Like a shepherd God feeds His flock, in His arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom and leading the mother sheep with care. Such is the care that God promises for the people of Israel. The mouth of the Lord has spoken. All the people need is to have faith and act as though all that has been promised to them has already happened and they will see the Lord fulfill His promises before their eyes.

The covenant that God made with His people is still force today. He is still our God and we are still His people. As Christians, we live in the realm of “all ready and not yet”. Our Lord has already come to us and left us His Body and Blood as a memorial of His passion, death, and resurrection; however, after two thousand years we still await His return. Not only did Jesus leave us His Body and Blood, but we have the entire sacramental life of the Church which gives witness to His presence among us. The beauty of nature, the birth of a child, and the love we experience from family and friends all speak to us of God’s presence in our midst.

In joyful expectation, as we await the coming of Our Lord at Christmas and the end of time, let us give witness to that sense of joy by sharing the love of God with everyone we come in contact with. As Jesus said, “They will know you are My disciples by how much you love one another.”