All three readings of today’s Mass have comforting words. In the first reading Isaiah says: “Courage, do not be afraid.” In the second reading St. James says: “Be patient! Do not lose heart.” And in the Gospel we have the lovely words of Jesus to his cousin, John: “Happy the person who does not lose faith in me.”
John’s situation was a grim one. He was locked up in a dark dungeon with the threat of death hanging over him. His faith was being severely tested. He needed reassurance and comforting. No doubt Jesus” words were a source of comfort and strength to John.
The comforting words of today’s readings are addressed to us now. And we need to take them in, because at times we too can find ourselves in dark situations.
We might be going along nicely but then a storm suddenly hits us: unemployment, a serious illness, a death in the family … These kinds of things shatter our faith in the right order of things and even in God. At times like these may we hear the words of Isaiah: “Courage! Do not be afraid.”
John the Baptist was a holy, God-fearing man, yet he ended up in a dungeon under sentence of death. We can do our best, but things may still go wrong. We feel let down by God. We doubt his love for us and perhaps even his existence. At times like these may we hear the words of Jesus: “Blessed is the person who does not lose faith in me.”
Modern life is becomingly increasingly stressful. Christmas brings added work and more stress. Some people can feel overwhelmed, and wonder if they will be able to cope. In times like these may we hear the words of Isaiah: “Courage! Do not be afraid.” Death constitutes the severest test of all for our faith. We live our lives in the shadow of death. That all of us, but especially those who have recently lost a loved one, and who stand in darkness and in the shadow of death, may hear the words of Jesus: “Blessed is the person who does not lose faith in me.”
At times we are bewildered by some of the things that are happening in our world: tragedies, wars, famines, genocide … We feel numbed and powerless, and we wonder where God is, and why he doesn’t intervene. In the midst of our bewilderment may we hear the words of Jesus: “Blessed is the person who does not lose faith in me.”
Some parents have seen their children give up the practice of the faith, in spite of having given them encouragement and good example. For them it’s a great pain, and a great sadness. May these parents hear the words of St James: “Be patient! Do not lose heart.”
Advent, with its wonderful promises of a new world, takes us on a trip to a place called hope. If things and people were perfect, hope would not be needed. Hope is required precisely because we live in an imperfect world.