December 11, 2023 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu

Today’s readings invite us to act like God’s salesmen and women. We have the BEST PRODUCT in the entire universe. Yes, God’s product is incomparable. 

The prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul set the pace for this, as if they are presenting attractive divine offers to God’s clients. Isaiah displays the Lord’s comfort, while Paul speaks with eloquent conviction, “Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” There’s an old joke about this Pauline passage: A man hears it and asks God if a thousand dollars is like a penny. When God says yes, the man asks for a penny. Then God says to him, “Just wait one day.” Funny, but Advent is that “one day” to wait for the Lord. 

Isaiah reinforces God’s eternal promise for the exiled people, “Comfort my people, comfort them”, says the Lord (Is. 40:1). Here begins the second part of Isaiah’s prophetic writings, the Deutero Isaiah (chapter 40 to 55), called the Book of Consolation. The prophet is addressing the people who are on the verge of losing hope, having endured years of separation from their land and their God. The prophet wants them not to relent as a result of their experience in captivity. More so, he rekindles God’s tenderness and compassion as the reason for consolation. The offer is not human, but divine, “Here is your God!” The offer is not shaken, but with supreme certainty, “Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules with a strong arm.” And it depicts God’s compassionate, sacrificial nature, “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.”

This helps to capture the spirit of the season of Advent in a unique way. According to commentators, “Three biblical figures express in different ways the spirit of the season of advent: the prophet Isaiah, whose words create hope and expectation; Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose obedience opened the door to the Incarnation; and John the Baptist, whose ministry was to prepare the way of the Lord.” Although everything points to Jesus as Mark’s gospel narrates, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1). Mark uses John the Baptist as the invitation for repentance and divine presence.  

Like the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul, John pitches even a higher presentation. Scripture remarks, “People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” John the Baptist makes his mission clear as a representative of Christ, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.’” John speaks comfort to the people who expect to have their sins forgiven. John offers the people a sample of the best product, baptizing them in the Jordan River. God’s forgiveness is indeed comforting.

What if we stand in for Christ, as today’s salesman and women? Like Isaiah, Paul, or John the Baptist, what if it has become our evangelizing task to bring God’s comfort at this time of Advent? What if we play the role of God’s agents for those losing hope, those lacking comfort, and those despairing? Christ is the Messiah, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29-30), but someone has got to announce that good news. Why not you? God’s coming is real, He does not delay. The divine package is an amazing offer for believers, “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). 

Here’s a great pitch for God’s audience, in case you’re not sure of what to say, “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low, the rugged land shall be made plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together” (Is.40: 4-5). That’s the awesome package. Isn’t that like the best product on sale? Just fill those valleys of hatred, resentment, jealousy, impatience, fear, lack of mercy, and insincerity. Then grab the benefits. Encounter the shepherd who feeds his flock; who gathers the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the weak ones with care. That’s huge.

Advent announces that “one day” to level that mountain for the Lord. Advent announces that “one day” offer of comfort of God’s healing. Advent is that “one day” to fill in the valleys in our lives. That one day to make rough roads smooth. That “one day” awaiting to see the glory of God at Christmas. Advent is that “one day,’ as Peter says, when “The Lord does not delay his promise” (2 Pet. 3:9). This one day demands that salesmen/women announce the best product ever, “Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!” We must reach out to take it. 

Readings: 1st- Is. 40:1-5, 9-11; 2nd- 2 Pet. 3:8-14; Gospel- Mk. 1:1-8  

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