Last Sunday, we examined the prophecy of Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 40) in relation to the preaching of the Baptist, who urged people to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. This Sunday, the first reading from Isaiah introduces us to the prophecy of Trito-Isaiah, which clearly outlines the situation of the Jews after the Babylonian exile. In the midst of the despair of the time, this prophet stepped in to offer hope and consolation. Here, we shall see how Jesus, as messiah, fits into this prophecy.
As we saw last week, the second Sunday of Advent, the Babylonian Captivity was real bad news for the Jews and the Jewish nation. It was calamitous in every respect. Needless to say, it created untold hardships, misery of epic proportion, depopulation of the Jews, desolation, hopelessness, anguish, angst, gloom, depression, despondency, dejection, and sadness for the people. And now Trito-Isaiah continues in the mood of Deutero-Isaiah by offering hope and creating a better future. Now, he is replacing hopelessness with hope; sadness with joy; unhappiness with happiness; rejection with acceptance; desolation with consolation; and loneliness with divine company. This reassuring message fits into our first reading today.
But why was this type of positive message necessary at this point in Jewish history? The answer is quite simple. As we saw last Sunday, this exile was a complete humiliation for the Jews of the period. Many of them went into exile in chains, in shackles like war captives. Above all a good number of the men were castrated, or forced to be eunuchs, while the women were desecrated by the Babylonian infidels. Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations, written during this exilic period, recaptured this tragedy in very tearful words (see Lamentations 1:1-6; Lamentations 2:15 and Lamentations 2:20-22).
This was the context that led to the “comfort, comfort my people” of Deutero-Isaiah in Isaiah 40:1 which we saw last Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent. In that text, the people were told to wipe their eyes because an emissary from God was coming. They were assured that all would soon be well and that they should start preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. In today’s prophecy, the exiles had returned to Palestine. The prophet now describes for them the mission of the messiah or the emissary from God who is coming to heal them.
The messiah’s mission is to bind up, to proclaim, to comfort. Jesus fulfilled the message of proclaiming the good news to the poor; to the broken hearted; to the oppressed, and all the marginalized people. In view of this, it is not surprising that Jesus quotes our first reading at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Lk 4:16-20), that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, because he has been anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has been sent by the Father to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord (see also Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11).
The message for today is to rejoice because our salvation is closer at hand. The emissary from God is at hand. We should be happy. Each of us should be emissary of this great joy by bringing comfort and consolation to each other. We should be a source of hope for those we encounter. Even in the midst of hopelessness, let us always tell those involved that it shall be well again because God never fails. Let us always remind those in trouble that God will rebuild the fallen house of David in their lives. Let us avoid being always negative, offering blames instead of hope. Let us remember that absence of hope is often one of the causes of suicide. Whenever we offer hope, like Trito-Isaiah and Jesus, we may be saving life in one form or the other. Give hope to those who come to you for advice. Do not give them as much discouragement as you can. Always, look for alternatives that could bring hope to those, who come to you. Do not be so negative about everything. Always, make serious effort to find out what can give hope to someone.
Spread the good news of Christ in the Spirit of John the Baptist. John ministered in the Spirit of humility and truth. Like John the Baptist let us become the prophetic voice joyfully announcing the coming of the messianic king. As St. Paul tells us today, we should rejoice always; we should not cease praying; we should render constant thanks, always, we should not stifle the spirit and never despise prophecies. On these bases, St. Paul prays for us that the God of peace will make us perfect in holiness, so that we will be irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.