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The Word Among Us

Meditation: Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11

 “Comfort, give comfort to my people.” (Isaiah 40:1)

The people of Israel were in cri­sis. Their Temple in Jerusalem had been burned to the ground. Their king had been taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. And most of the population had been forced out of their homes and sent into exile. Everything they treasured about their role as God’s holy peo­ple was taken away from them, and it left them traumatized, distressed, and despairing.

Into this sad situation, God told his prophet to speak words of com­fort and tenderness to his people. Don’t be afraid! The Lord is coming! He’s going to gather you all together, as a shepherd gathers his sheep, and bring you back home. So get ready to welcome him and his deliverance.

Like the Israelites, we all need comfort from God. None of us is free from the sadness that can come from life in this world. It could be the pain of an illness, the wound from a bro­ken relationship, or the challenge of unemployment or financial stress.

No matter what we are facing, God wants to comfort us. He wants to speak tenderly to our hearts and tell us that he is with us. And more than anything else, he wants to tell us that Jesus, who is “God with us,” has opened heaven for us. We don’t have to endure our challenges on our own. We don’t have to go through this life doing nothing but trying our best and hoping for bet­ter days. We have access to the grace and comfort, the power and wis­dom, of God himself!

So no matter how difficult or de­manding life may seem, let these truths bring you comfort. Remember that nothing prevented Jesus from coming two thousand years ago and that nothing will prevent him from coming again to bring heaven down to earth. And finally, remember that even as we wait for that time, noth­ing can prevent Jesus from coming into our hearts right now and com­forting us with his love.

“Lord, I need your comfort. Fill me with your joy and peace. Teach me how to open my heart to you. Jesus, I love you!”

Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion

(Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11; Psalm 85:9-14; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8)

1. In the beginning of the first reading, we hear these words, “Comfort. Comfort my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). In what ways do these words reflect the Lord’s great love and mercy toward Israel? How was this “comfort,” which was foretold by John the Baptist, fulfilled in Jesus Christ? What is the “comfort” God is offering his people and each of us during this grace-filled Advent season?

2. What do these words from the responsorial psalm mean (or symbolize) in light of the coming of Christ? “Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and truth shall kiss” (Psalm 85:11). Many papal teaching have been focused on charity and justice as the way to “peace.” As we reflect on the coming of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, during this Advent Season, what specifically can you do to help restore justice and peace within your family, or among family members — for example, in any relationships that have gone sour?

3. The second reading exhorts us to live holy lives with these words, “What sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12). Why do you think the author believed living holy lives would cause a hastening of the coming of Christ? What small steps or religious practices can you adopt this Advent in order to live “lives of holiness and godliness”?

4. The Gospel reading speaks of preparing the way of the Lord. What can you do this Advent/Christmas season to help your family, your friends, or your co-workers receive Christ, or deepen their relationship with him?

5. In the Gospel, St. John the Baptist also proclaims the need for repentance and forgiveness of sins. Make a commitment to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Advent/Christmas season. What are some ways that you and your family can prepare for it, so that you and they will experience more deeply the Lord’s forgiveness of sins?

6. In today’s meditation, we hear these words: “None of us is free from the sadness that can come from life in this world. It could be the pain of an illness, the wound from a broken relationship, or the challenge of unemployment or financial stress.” In spite of these pains, wounds, and challenges, the meditation goes on to say that “No matter what we are facing, God wants to comfort us.” How can you open yourself in a greater way to God’s comfort?

7. Take some time now to pray that this Advent would be a special time of grace for you and your family - a time to experience the Lord’s, comfort, joy, and peace. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.

38 posted on 12/04/2011 5:02:58 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
A Christian Pilgrim


(A biblical reflection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, 4 December 2011) 

Gospel Reading: Mk 1:1-8 

First Reading: Is 40:1-5,9-11; Psalms: Ps 85:9-14; Second Reading: 2Pet 3:8-14 

The Scripture Text

The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send My messenger before thy face, who prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight – ” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes He who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mk 1:1-8 RSV)

Have you ever noticed how important a role the “wilderness” plays in the Bible? The children of Abraham spent forty years wandering in the wilderness until they learned to trust in YHWH. Jeremiah prophesied that all those who survive the word of God’s judgment will find unending grace in their times of wilderness (Jer 31:2). Even Jesus spent time in the wilderness, praying and fasting in preparation for His public ministry (Mk 1:12-13). It seems that if you want to get close to the Lord, you will encounter the wilderness at one point or another.

What is our wilderness? It is our old life of sin and separation from God. It is that part of us that remains wild and untamed, not yet surrendered to the Lord.

The good news that we are preparing to celebrate at Christmas is that we do not have to wait until we have tamed the wilderness before we can come to Jesus. In fact, it works the other way around. We need to let Jesus in first, and then our wilderness will be gradually transformed.

Just as John the Baptist invited people into the wilderness to receive his baptism, so Jesus is inviting us into the wilderness in our lives. As we enter those darkened, wild places, we may be surprised to see Jesus right there, waiting for us. He is in those places where we feel the most barren and unattractive, offering us His healing and restoration. He is there, ready to clear away the brush, turn the burning sand into a lush garden, and fill the empty landscape with every possible good fruit.

Our sins are already forgiven. Jesus has already paid the price. All we need to do is run to Him on that crooked path and ask for His forgiveness and healing. He will make our path straight. This Advent, let us take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we can experience forgiveness in a concrete way. Know that as you confess your sins and are assured of Jesus’ forgiveness, you will experience Jesus’ refreshment and be able to start anew.

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that You are ready to step into my wilderness and clean it up for me. Thank You for Your love and Your mercy. Help me to be more aware of my sins, so that I may bring them to You and know Your forgiveness. Amen. 

39 posted on 12/04/2011 5:04:22 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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