December 11th, 2006
Tom Bannantine, S.J.
School of Nursing
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Recently I watched a TV news report about the Dead Sea. The Dead
Sea is slowly drying up. There is a real danger that the Dead Sea
could disappear if something is not done. The Dead Sea is fed by
the Jordan River. The problem is that the people of the area - Palestinians,
Jews, and people of Jordan are all diverting more and more of the
water from the Jordan River for irrigation. The solution would be
cooperation among all these people to use the water wisely. However
with all the strife and enmity among these people, cooperation is
not happening. That is just one more reason to pray for peace in
the land of our savior as we approach once again the birthday of
the prince of peace. I was reminded of this problem when I read
the words of Isaiah in today's first scripture reading.
Isaiah speaks of the barren climate and scarcity of water in the
land of Israel. He compares the joy at the coming of the savior
to joy at an abundant supply of water suddenly bursting forth in
the desert. Just as the people of Israel would feel great joy at
the appearance of the water, so should they rejoice at the coming
of the savior. He says further that at the appearance of the water
a highway will also appear. It will be called the holy way. And
this is where Isaiah is also speaking to us. The holy way is not
a road for everyone. No one unclean, that is sinners who are estranged
from God, will be allowed to travel the road. The holy way is for
those who are followers of the Lord and are worthy of redemption.
It sounds like a great road to be on, one that all of us would like
to travel. But for those Israelites listening to Isaiah it would
be a very long road. The savior had not yet come and would not come
for centuries. And so it was up to Isaiah and the other prophets
to keep repeating God's promise that a savior would come to redeem
the people. The people of Israel needed to be reminded often of
God's promise so that they could remember to avoid evil and follow
the holy road to their redemption. By repeating God's promise over
and over, Isaiah and the other prophets helped the people to prepare
for the coming of the savior.
I think we know that by calling our attention to the prophecies
of Isaiah and the other prophets in these daily Advent readings,
the Church is calling on us to prepare for the coming of our savior
on Christmas. But our problem is different than that of the ancient
Israelites. They had a very long road to travel and needed constant
encouragement. Our road is shorter, the four weeks of Advent, but
our problem is to find the time to truly make Advent a time of preparation.
In our modern world the true meaning of Christmas has to compete
with all the hustle and bustle of a busy season. It is not easy
for us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ on Christmas.
But it only takes a few minutes to read and meditate on the words
of Isaiah. If we can take a few minutes daily or at least often
during Advent, to do this, we can keep ourselves on that holy way
and truly prepare for the coming of Christ on Christmas.
to the writer of this reflection.
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