The spirit of the Advent season is filled with the images of some of the most powerful figures in all of Scripture. The first, of course, is the Virgin Mary, constantly with us throughout this holy season, patiently awaiting the birth of her son - God-made-man, God-with-us - Emmanuel. This third week of Advent highlights the personalities of two others: John the Baptist, the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for His coming - and the prophet Isaiah - whose words are full of expectation, hope and joy.
Isaiah was witness to one of the most turbulent periods in the history of Israel, from both the religious and the political standpoint. He has been called the "prophet of the nearness of God" who took an active part in the course of the daily events of his time. He supported the local government of the day, but that did not prevent him from denouncing the corruption that had encompassed the ruling class, and the aristocracy's obliviousness toward the poor and helpless. Affirming the principles of absolute justice and morality, and faith in God, he was fearless in his prophetic mission and almost poetic in his description of the coming Messiah.
Isaiah is probably most well-known for his description of the Messiah as the "Suffering Servant" and for the words of today's reading: "Here is your God, 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." But the book of Isaiah also reminds us that we, too, are called to be prophets. He reminds us to remind others: our slavery is at an end, our guilt is expiated.
We look at the prophet as a person who claims to have a sense of vision, a special gift of perceiving the truth, and a claim to the authority to proclaim that truth publicly and courageously, especially in the face of opposition. Prophets do "what they do" because they are called to do so - not for any personal fame or earthly gain, but because it is the right thing to do. Their lives proclaim the glory of God: "Rejoice, behold your God!"
Isaiah was just such a prophet; John the Baptist was one.
Jesus was and is the greatest of all the prophets. At his baptism in the Jordan, he was anointed by the Holy Spirit as "priest, prophet and king." He spent the rest of his public life proclaiming his vision of God's truth as it applies to human activity and relationships - proclaiming this truth publicly and courageously, and in the face of constant threat and opposition. This prophetic mission was one of service to the poor and the desolate, of comforting His people - a proclamation that their slavery to sin and death has come to an end. It was a call to rejoice, for like a shepherd feeding his flock, the glory of the Lord was truly revealed.
I think it is important for us to continually remember that the Lord's prophetic mission did not end when he returned to the Father. He clearly indicated that his followers would, in every age, be called on to carry on this mission to the world. It is this mission that characterizes the entire life and spirit of every baptized Christian...