The Advent Season is a time for travel! We recall pregnant Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth; we accompany Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem; we rejoice as shepherds and kings make their way to the manger to adore Him. Our own Advent will be filled with frantic last-minute shopping trips and holiday traffic jams, and journeys that reunite us with distant loved ones.
In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah would have us travel to that blessed place where God’s love reigns triumphant. Here, the ideal ruler, who "judges the poor with justice", presides over the ideal kingdom where "the baby shall play by the cobra’s den." The prophet’s majestic verse maps the God-given destination for the human race. Like impatient children, we may ask, "Are we there yet?" As experienced adults we know too well the humbling answer, "Not even close!"
And yet! Our times do witness God at work. Evidence of grace is all around us: the long-suffering people of Eastern Europe are free; the terrible racial hatred found in South Africa and our own country recede into our rearview mirror; Europe has been continuously at peace for the longest period in over 1000 years; men and women of faith and goodwill still strive to lift the burdens of suffering, doubt and oppression that detour the full arrival of God’s vision for us.
Isaiah’s stunning dream, then, is also a roadmap. And, Advent summons us to "hit the road", eagerly anticipating our destination and determined to reach the goal. May this holy Season be a ‘bon voyage’.
Fr. Jim Thoman, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center, Detroit, Michigan.