Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;*
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
This passage from Isaiah is familiar to us because Jesus quotes it at the beginning of his ministry (see Luke 4:16-19). It is the announcement of marvelous things to come, a promise about the approach of God’s peaceful reign where true justice (not the human kind, but God’s kind) will be enacted. Psalm 126 also speaks about a happy future, but more in the tone of petitioning God for it than of assuming that it will happen. Between the two passages we have an intersection of what God purposes for humankind and what humans want most. The great challenge for us is to live with a joy that fully expects God’s reign to come in. In Advent, we practice this “on-the-tip-of-our-toes” kind of expectation—practice it the way a child practices scales on the piano. We need to get used to expecting the best . . .
Questions for Reflection:
- What gives you hope for the future of Earth and human beings?
- What do you do when hope begins to seem foolish or futile?
- What is most striking/surprising to you about Jesus’/Isaiah’s vision for the future?