ISAIAH 61:1-2A, 10-11. 1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-24 JOHN 1:6-8, 19-28
Hope is the theme of this Sunday’s scriptures. Isaiah puts it in context. St. Paul rejoices in it. And John the Baptist proclaims it to anyone with open ears and a welcoming heart.
Isaiah begins the reflection. He looks into the future and sees a powerful figure, anointed with the Spirit of God, whose mission it will be to bring a message of good news to the people – the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives and the prisoners. Isaiah is describing people like you and me. We may carry the scars of personal tragedy. We may grieve the loss of loved ones or our physical deterioration. We may be healthy and secure, but we may still feel that life is burdensome. Isaiah is telling us that the day is coming when all of us will be directed to a vision of light and liberation. A day is coming when our hope will blossom into joy.
In the second scripture St. Paul tells the community of Christians in Thessalonica to make thanksgiving, joy and prayer the center of their lives. He’s making reference to the Eucharistic gathering – the great Prayer of Thanksgiving. The Eucharist heals the community of despair and hopelessness. It’s the mystical banquet of the kingdom of God that we celebrate. At the Eucharistic table we’re nourished with the very source of joy and hope, Christ himself. Once in our hearts, no one or no thing can take this joy and hope from us.
The passage from the Gospel of John continues to focus the theme of hope as it recounts the testimony of John the Baptist. “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light. He was not the light but came to testify to the light.” Light, in the Gospel of John, is the divine presence. Throughout his Gospel he juxtaposes light and darkness. Light is love and harmony and peace – all that God is. Darkness is division and malevolence, and the energy of hate.
John’s message of hope assures that the light is very near. He’s encouraging everyone to abandon the mindsets that strengthen the darkness. Hope is the pathway to the light. He invites each of us to clothe ourselves in the light. Each of us have the power to change the way we think and live, and by doing so we can abandon the darkness and step into the light.
Let’s conclude this reflection by returning to Isaiah’s poetic description of hope. Let’s use it as a prayer of thanksgiving for hope fulfilled.
“I rejoiced heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.”