Advent 02, Year C-2009

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path (Ps. 119:105)

Needless to say, the prophetic word of encouragement from the book of the prophet Baruch is not addressed to those who have it easy most, if not all, of the time. It would not make sense to them at all, I don’t think. I doubt it even that it would make much sense to those who had known hardships but managed to overcome them themselves with little help from anybody.

The prophetic word of encouragement is meant for mourning mothers, weeping inconsolably for their children who are no more, for on foot these were led away into exile by their enemies (cf. also Jer. 31:15-17). Powerless that they are, both mothers and children have no one else to turn to except the Lord, in whom they have faith and on whom they pin their hope. It is matters to them to hear that, at the word of the Holy One, the children will be gathered from every place of exile and brought back, “borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones,” to their mothers. They will find comforting too the assurance that, at the Lord’s efficacious word or command, the way of the returning exiles will be so prepared that they will run into no obstacle whatsoever and they will feel as though a red carpet is being rolled out for them.

In other word, the Lord’s word of encouragement speaks wisdom only to those who are helplessly in need—the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated, excluded, insulted and rejected, like the true prophets, because of their commitment to the Son of Man—while it is derided as folly by the rich, the well fed, those who laugh now and those who, like the false prophets, are well spoken of (cf. Lk. 6:20-26). The prophetic word of encouragement spells the wisdom that the powerless ask for in today’s collect prayer. It is the wisdom that makes them poignantly aware of their utter poverty, of their living inevitably in a world where power and control are still wielded by those who lord it over the people—by the likes of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip and Lysanias—and influence is peddled by double-dealers who are not unlike Annas and Caiaphas. Yet to the distraught this wisdom also offers hope, the hope that is founded on repentance for the forgiveness of sins and proclaimed, not only by John the Baptist, but also by the prophet Baruch, for whom fidelity to God and his law is the way to life and peace [1].

There is hope for the poor and the weak through repentance. With repentance, they will enter the kingdom of God ahead of those who consider themselves firmly and squarely standing on righteousness (Mt. 21:32; cf. also 11:21; 12:40-42). But repentance implies a turning away or a change of direction. It requires turning away from the seats of power and going to the wilderness, going to Jesus outside where he suffered, taking the narrow road that is seldom taken but paradoxically leads to the red carpet and life (Heb. 13:12-13; Mt. 7:14). Fixing their eyes on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith, the poor and the weak refuse to grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:2-3). They heed the encouragement that says (Heb. 12:12-13): “So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.”

I, no doubt, like to think of myself as taking part in this pilgrimage, characterized by St. Cyprian as a “pilgrimage of praise and glory” (cf. the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours for Saturday of the First Week of Advent). But until my participation implies readiness to do as Jesus did and instructed his followers to do in his memory, that is to say, to offer myself as food and drink that help strengthen my fellow pilgrims, I will really be unprepared for the day of Christ and what was begun will fall short of completion. In other words, unless my love increases ever more and more to the point that I become all things to all people in order to win everyone for Christ (cf. Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, II, 12), I will definitely be far from being “pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” sorely lacking still in the wisdom that comes from the Lord’s word of encouragement.