I think all of us have watched a child scoot or crawl along the floor to reach an object that has attracted his or her attention. If it is safe, we may cheer the child on and move the object closer. If it is unsafe, we may move the child away or place the object out of reach. Every year at this time, parents with a scooting or crawling child have to decide whether or not to put a Christmas tree, with all its bright lights and ornaments, on the floor or put it up high out of reach. Whether we know it or not, every time we move toward a reach for something, we are exercising the virtue of hope. Hope is part and parcel of who we are as human beings. It is hope that enables us to keep on crawling, to survive, and to conquer the tough times.
In the gospel reading from Luke for the Second Sunday of Advent, the words of the Prophet Isaiah are quoted: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and his shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Originally, the prophet was speaking to the Israelite community that is in captivity in Babylon. Their captivity has taken the Israelites from their land and it has taken away their hope. But the prophet gives the people a message of hope. He promises them freedom when the Kingdoms of Judah and Jerusalem are restored.
We believe that the voice is coming from the prophet, but is it really? I propose to you that Isaiah is only putting into words what we all know but are perhaps afraid to say as people living in a world of turmoil and trouble. “We are a people of hope!”
Advent is not about hoping in God. Advent is about hoping in God’s promises. There are no boundaries to hope, because there are no boundaries to God. God keeps pushing back the boundaries we try to set when we want to have only a reasonable hope in this world. God tries and tries to assure us that our suffering and dying in this world will bring us to new life in the world to come.
Fr. Bob Kelly, OP