Readings for the third Sunday in Advent
by Serena Josolyne
Isaiah’s message in the first reading was a proclamation of good news to the oppressed. Isaiah was referring to oppression and treatment of the Israelites, while they were in Babylon. We can see a parallel to our present- day oppression, this time to the whole world, not by any people but by a life-threatening virus to all people. In a similar way, we can ask for God’s support, not by sitting back and waiting, but by prayer and by making our own efforts in combatting this disease. Following the renewals of lockdown procedures (which are intended to be in line with the coming celebrations) also we have received more hopeful news for the future. I am talking of course about the newly developed vaccines which are already under distribution. Unfortunately, these brighter glimpses into the months ahead do nothing to relieve the current suffering, or the high death toll experienced during this passing year of 2020, and they do not help us to cope with the strict limitations that have been placed on our ways of life. Although the primary issues are those of health, the knock-on effect has also hit most aspects of industry, finance (and leisure of course). As with other changes to our life-styles, some criminal elements have come into evidence. Unscrupulous individuals will usually find ways of exploiting the circumstances to their own gain and to the loss of those who they target. Isaiah speaks for God when he says: ‘For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing’.
In the earlier verses Isaiah mentions help by strangers and foreigners. Although our needs at this time are much different to those of the feeding flocks and the tending of our land, we have indeed benefitted from the work of foreigners as well as from those from our own country, but in a completely different way. Fields of science have replaced fields of agriculture. Scientists in many different countries, have been looking for and working on the production of suitable vaccines to guard us in the future; as well as finding ways of curing those who are already suffering from this terrible disease. In our own country, those who have become afflicted by the virus have been helped not only by friends and family, but by total strangers who have dedicated their own lives to providing care, in many cases at great risk to themselves.
We could pray for an immediate and absolute end to all these current problems, but God doesn’t work in that way. We can pray for help but it is not good enough to sit back and wait, we must also do our own bit in helping to combat this situation. We may not be on the front line fighting this disease, but we can help others and ourselves by following the recommended guidelines and with God’s support, by giving practical help wherever we can. In answer to our prayers, God will watch and guide us, as well as of those who are working towards a good and comprehensive solution. Our prayers include all of those working to this end; not only in this country, but throughout the world. The end result will not be achieved by any one group of individuals, but by world-wide co-operation. For this, we pray that front line workers will find the right science to control this pandemic. Our prayers are also with all the doctors, nurses and caring staff who are working to give the best care to those who are sick. Our prayers also will include world leaders, for their guidance in the management of industrial upsets and finding answers to the financial problems brought about by this pandemic, also for all of those who provide us with essential services. The eleventh commandment of Jesus was that we should Love everyone; now, as always, it is a good time to believe in that commandment – and to follow it, being inclusive of all people.
This situation has been with the world throughout this year and has now extended into the period of Advent. Advent is the time when we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ and our preparations have to be completely different this year. Today’s gospel reading has introduced us to John the Baptist. John and Jesus were of similar age, but John, in all humility, had already started his mission: acting as an advance and humble messenger, not to the birth of the Messiah, but to his coming ministry, leading to the start of Christianity. As God’s messenger, John knew what was right and he defied members of authority who queried his actions of welcoming all people into baptism. John claimed no honours for himself, but he paved the way for Jesus to show the true way of love throughout the world.