December 7, 2020
by Maureen McCann Waldron
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 181

Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
Luke 5:17-26

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St. Ambrose from Vatican's Saint of the day

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The first weeks of Advent are the only time each liturgical year that we focus on the first readings of the day, and the various gospels are complementary to those readings.  On December 17th we begin the second part of Advent and refocus on the gospel as it gives us the story of the birth of Jesus.

Isaiah’s readings are always a gift during early Advent.  His message to a beleaguered Israel is one of promise of joy to come, both for the people of Israel, and for us.  The main message in Isaiah, and all of today’s readings, is that our God, the one who loves us endlessly with a deep and personal love, is here to save us.

Isaiah was speaking to the people of Israel.  With war and political intrigue proliferating, he promises what seems highly unlikely: hope and joy in an almost miraculous way.  The desert will bloom with abundant flowers; feeble hands will become strong; the lame will walk and the blind, see.  Because travel could be so dangerous, Isaiah offers a glimpse of safe road, a highway “called the holy way.”  No “fools will go astray on it,” no wild beasts or, presumably, robbers.

Most improbable may be Isaiah’s promise to those of us whose hearts are frightened: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”  It is not just a promise for the future, but for now, today, as we recognize that God is here with us in our own seemingly beleaguered lives. 

It is echoed in the psalm refrain from this same passage in Isaiah, proclaiming, “Our God will come to save us!” The Psalm 85 message says clearly that God “proclaims peace to his people.”  The message of peace is proclaimed for our own hearts, right now.

Luke’s gospel gives us the story of a healing of a man who was paralyzed.  But I often think of it as the story of a man and his friends, and the deep faith they all had in Jesus’ ability to heal. The man was carried on a stretcher to a home where Jesus was teaching.  It was filled with “Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem.” 

The crowd so filled the house and the outside area that they could not get close to Jesus. With remarkable faith that their friend would be healed, they climbed up onto the roof with the stretcher, pushed aside the roof tiles and lowered the stretcher into the house, right to the floor in front of Jesus.

Jesus, who may have been surprised by the sudden appearance of the man being lowered in front of him, he addressed the friends and man. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.”  The ever-critical religious leaders wondered how Jesus could be bold enough to forgive sins.  But Jesus read their thoughts and to show them the “power of the Lord was with him for healing” he told the man to pick up his stretcher and go home. 

The last part of the miracle seems to be that not only did the man and his friends glorify God, but “astonishment seized them all” and it appears that even the scribes and Pharisees “glorified God and were struck with awe.”  

Today we have the chance to be struck with awe by the God who is at our side and saves us at every moment of the day.  Today is a chance to be grateful and glorify God.  If we allow ourselves to believe that God is really here with us, for us today, then our hearts will be filled with “joy and gladness.”

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