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 Gods 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. Dont be afraid! The Lord is coming! Hes 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 dont have to endure our challenges on our own. We dont 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 Lords 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 Lords forgiveness of sins?
6. In todays 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 Gods 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 Lords, comfort, joy, and peace. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.