by Father Mike Stubbs
Why is it that people go all out in setting up decorations for Christmas, while they pretty much ignore the other holidays in that respect?
After all, nobody puts up an Easter tree in the living room, or strings colored electric lights on the outside of the house for the Fourth of July.
Is it that they esteem Christmas above Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving? Or, is there something else going on?
Perhaps, the answer lies in the way that the world would look otherwise. People see the bare and stark landscape. They gaze up at the bleak winter sky.
In view of that, they decide that the world needs some decorations. The world needs something to brighten it up, to make it look more cheerful.
Sunday’s first reading — Is 35:1-6a, 10 — takes a similar approach. It looks at the barren and arid desert and sees it transformed by God:
“The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.” But this is not merely a cosmetic change. It goes deeper than that.
God comes to bring about a transformation of the people as well, to “strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak.” God’s arrival will work marvels among them:
“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.”
We can interpret these wonderful events as miracles, as physical healings. At the same time, they can point to a spiritual transformation that God will work.
People’s eyes will be opened, so that they will see the truth. People’s ears will be opened, so that they will listen to God’s word. They will be energized to do God’s will, so that they will no longer be lame. They will be emboldened to proclaim God’s glory.
This prophecy from Isaiah points to the transformation that Jesus will accomplish in his ministry. He would perform miracles, works of spiritual healing.
At the same time, he also worked a spiritual transformation in people’s hearts that paralleled those works of healing.
Jesus still wishes to come into our world, to bring about these wonderful changes. He wishes to heal our bodies, to convert our hearts, to transform our world.
The promise that God makes in this prophecy of Isaiah still offers us hope.