Lambs entertaining wolves? Lions eating hay? Babies playing with cobras? What kind of world is Isaiah describing? Could this utopia ever exist? Could it exist any more than a world in which kings (or their sons) rule with justice, and have pity on the lowly, and save the lives of the poor by rescuing them when they cry out? How far away is that world from the one in which we live today? How different is the king described in today’s first two readings from the leaders we have placed in positions of responsibility in our modern world?
I find it telling that the ancient writers were inspired to reflect on better times than the ones in which they lived, and that their hope for the future, when the messiah had come, would be for a world in which justice rules. In that world, justice would be the standard, not oppression; meekness, not aggression; cooperation, not confrontation. The hopes of Isaiah and the psalmist were for a better life for all in the world in which they lived.
For me, the message Jesus brings is that we make this world what it is, that how we live determines whether lambs can entertain wolves and lions eat hay. His message is one of care, concern, and compassion for others, not focus on ourselves. He calls each of us to rule our corner of the world with justice, to have pity on the lowly, to save the lives of the poor when they cry out. We are shoots that have sprouted from the bud that has blossomed, and Jesus calls us to act with a spirit of wisdom, and understanding, just as Isaiah says the messiah will act.
Our annual Advent season is a time of reflection, of anticipation, of rejuvenation. For me it is a chance to review familiar readings and passages and search for relevance to where I find myself today. And so, as we enter the season of Advent, my prayer today is that God will calm my heart, ease my mind and fill my soul with a deeper understanding of how I can help bring about justice in our world.
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