Isaiah’s Vision and the Advent Call
John the Baptist proclaims “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” He also cries out “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” His message is more clearly understood as we listen to the vison of Isaiah, which builds on last week’s passage from Isaiah. John isn’t just calling people to repent of their sins; being sorry and making a firm purpose of amendment. Rather, he is calling his listeners to something even more radical. He is calling for a change of heart in light of the good news of what is present, of what is coming. The invitation is to focus on God’s promise that something new is about to take place.
What we are called to is a conversion of mindset, to be open and willing to enter into the future God is promising. That future is described by Isaiah as life on God’s holy mountain, where what seems impossible is not just a far-off dream, but is real. What is described is a harmony that existed at the beginning of creation and now flows, as Paul says, from life in Christ. Isaiah paints an idyllic picture of a place and time where all live together in peace and harmony – the place where wolf and lamb, calf and lion, cow and bear, nursling child and asp share life and will not hurt or destroy, “for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”
As we look at our world today and see war and strife, discrimination, racism, hatred, evil, mass shootings we see few signs of the “knowledge of the Lord”. We even see major church leaders blessing a war which is unbelievable to many in our world. We recognize that the call to a change of heart is what is needed. Simply being sorry for our sins and resolving to make amends is not enough. A true change of heart in light of the Good News that the kingdom is at hand, is present in our midst, is what we are called to as we celebrate this Advent season. As disciples of Jesus, we are called and challenged to respond to this call to a change of heart and then to help bring about change in our world through our lives. We are called to live in hope of the realization of that promise and in the reality that something new is taking place. If my heart is not changed, then I continue to perpetuate the evil that we see around us. If I do not seek peace, then peace will not begin to grow. If I do not welcome all, then some will continue to be excluded. The vocation of each disciple is to make the vision of Isaiah a reality bit by bit in our own lives and in the world around us.
By Richard Beaudette, OMI