The prophet Isaiah speaks to the Israelites of a vision of life in which the majesty and power of God are manifest in extraordinary and almost unbelievable ways. “The wolf will be the guest of the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. The lion shall eat hay like the ox and the baby shall paly by the cobra’s den.” These are things that simply don’t happen in nature. But these are not simply words spoken by a prophet but the promise that God makes to all who are faithful. “There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.”
Enter John the Baptist who heralds the coming of the Messiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” This is the constant call of each of the prophets before him, a message that reaches its greatest urgency with the Baptist. The Baptist leads the Israelites to the waters of the Jordan, a call to repentance of sins and to renewed faithfulness to the covenant obligations with Yahweh. He promises that those who return to the Lord will find the promises that God makes fulfilled. As the psalmist reminds us, “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.”
Advent is a time of hopefulness as we reflect on the promises that God makes to his faithful ones. But it is a call to interior conversion of life, to prayer and discipline, so that the power of the Holy Spirit received in baptism will be the force that leads us to deeper faith in Jesus Christ and greater love for his Church. Jesus indeed has baptized us with the Holy Spirit and fire. God’s divine love burns within us, the fire of mercy and compassion are our constant companions, the hope that we can become the holy ones that we are intended to be beckons us forward in our journey of faith. As Saint Paul reminds the Romans in the second reading today: “it by endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures that we might have hope, “ a hope that when we live in Christ Jesus, when we walk the path of life, we will experience even now the presence of the Kingdom of God at work in us and in the Church. Lifted up by God’s grace in this present life, we will never waver in our desire for what lies ahead, the total fulfillment of our destiny, beloved sons and daughters headed for heaven!