by Father Mike Stubbs
When we were kids, our mother would sometimes yell at us, “Put on a jacket. You are going to catch your death of cold.”
I suppose we pretended that we were so tough, that the freezing weather wouldn’t affect us.
It is true that the clothes we wear reflect the attitudes we have. They send a message, whether consciously or not. A fan may show support for a sports team by wearing a corresponding jersey. A tux may indicate participation in a wedding or a prom.
Sunday’s first reading, Bar 5:1-9, provides a good example of this message bearing quality of clothing. It instructs Jerusalem: “Take off your robe of mourning and misery.”
In the Scriptures, the city of Jerusalem is sometimes personified as a woman, the mother of its citizens:
“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her; Exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her! Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts!” (Is 66:10-11).
Her citizens are the children of which the reading from Baruch speaks: “Look to the east and see your children.”
Jerusalem was in mourning because the country had been conquered by the Babylonians, the Temple destroyed, the people carted off in exile — off to the east: “Led away on foot by their enemies they left you.”
But now, they are returning home. This happy turn of events calls for a change in wardrobe: “Put on the splendor of glory from God forever; wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.”
All this is happening through God’s power, according to God’s plan: “God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. . . . God is leading Israel in joy.”
The exiles had left in sorrow, but now they are returning in joyful victory.
As a church, we apply these words of Baruch to the coming of Jesus Christ among us. It is a cause for rejoicing. That holds true both for his first arrival among us through his birth at Bethlehem, as well as his future coming in glory that will happen at the end of the world.
He leads us out of sin — which is a kind of exile, because it separates us from God — into the joys of life with God.