Carry the Word with you
First reading of the day:
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water; the abode where jackals lurk will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus. A highway will be there, called the holy way; no one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it. No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it. It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk. Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.
Gospel reading of the day:
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.” Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, “What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins?” he said to the one who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.”
Reflection on the readings: It is easy to lose our bearings. Our ceaseless errands and chores weary us and make us sad; they sometimes pile up and tempt us to despair, wondering when it all will be done. Even the things that fill us with joy eventually become stale, as the new becomes the same-old, same-old. The people we’ve known for years sometimes allude our understanding and seem to us like impenetrable mysteries. The world promotes a parade of glittering things which deep down we sense are meaningless. We come to recognize that knowledge by itself is cold and no comfort. Even adulation we come to understand is only the fickleness of the crowds. We grow older. The world changes. We never become rich. Our friends die. And these are just the ordinary wounds of being alive without any comment about the truly hard things that pierce our souls, like the death of a child or a spouse, life-threatening illness, alcoholism and drug addiction, and all the other extraordinary events that push us to the edge of every tolerance. Despite every good intention, we become desert and parched lands.
Advent, however, is a promise that we will rejoice and bloom: that we can bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song. It is the promise Jesus will stir in our heart, that he will gaze on us struck prostrate, lying on our stretchers, and take pity on our paralysis to tell us to rise, pick up our mats, and come home.