The readings for this first Tuesday in Advent are filled with the spirit of this season. In the Gospel (Luke 10:21-24) Jesus, “rejoicing in the Holy Spirit,” exuberantly praises his father for having revealed the hidden beauty of the gospel to “the childlike”—that is, to those open to receive the message of God’s enduring love that Jesus brings.
The first reading taken from the prophet Isaiah (11:1-10) is one so familiar in this Advent season. The prophet dreams of the day when the Messiah will come, a descendent of David (“a sprout from the stump of Jesse,” King David’s father), one who will be filled with God’s own Spirit and therefore one who will “judge the poor with justice and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.” Israel longed for the moment when God would send a savior who would heal the wounds of Israel and care for the vulnerable—a longing Christian faith sees in Jesus himself.
The final paragraph of Isaiah’s prophecy is particularly beautiful, and in view of the violence that is wracking our world right now, a poignant hope. This is the famous vision of Isaiah that foresees that through God’s power peace and reconciliation will so flood the world that even the threat of violence in nature will be dissolved: “the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kind; the calf and the young lion shall browse together…” “There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.”
At a time when people are so alarmed at the atrocities caused by terrorists and the wanton violence that afflicts own cities, the Scriptures remind us not to lose hope nor forget the sacredness and beauty of the world God has created. We ourselves should not be tempted to unwittingly imitate those who are driven by hatred and be consumed by fear. In this political season some are calling for rejection of the very victims of terror and others seem oblivious to the violence and poverty that afflicts our own intercity neighborhoods. The messiah we long for and have found in Jesus is the king of peace and justice. The world God created is destined for reconciliation. It is our responsibility to align our lives with that vision of human life and destiny.
Fr. Donald Senior, C.P. is President Emeritus and Professor of New Testament at Catholic Theological Union. He lives at the Passionist residence in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.