In today’s first reading, the prophet is speaking to his fellow citizens during their time of captivity in Babylon. They are 500 miles from their homeland and their Temple. They are depressed and filled with despair. The prophet’s message to them is all about New Life.
Isaiah predicts a wonderful future and a New Life for his people…A life with no more suffering, no more tears and no more sadness. A life filled with peace, love and joy …And joy is our church’s theme for Gaudete Sunday.
Our second reading is from Saint James, and he is a practical, down to earth, kind of person. He tells us how the Lord wants us to live. Do not be proud because God gives you the grace to the humble. Do not covet your neighbor’s goods. Give your neighbor support instead of speaking evil about your neighbor. Do not judge your neighbor and remember that God is the only judge. And be patient as you wait for the Second Coming of the Lord. Be patient with God’s schedule…just as the farmer waits patiently for the crops to grow. The farmer cannot make the plants grow faster…And you cannot speed up the Second Coming of Christ. So be patient as the farmer is patient.
I want to share with you a story that is a true story and comes from the days when I was serving as the pastor of two small parishes in Nebraska thirty five years ago.
One of the students was Jason and he was 13 years old. His parents were out of the picture, and he was adopted by his grandparents. I will put Jason’s story on the shelf for a moment and I will come back to it real soon.
First I want to look at the picture that we received from the prophet Isaiah just a few moments ago. His people were severely depressed in their captivity in Babylon and he said to them, “Give yourselves permission to dream about the future. The desert will bloom like a flower garden. The blind will see, and the lame will run and jump and dance. And we will all head home for a wonderful homecoming.”
Now let’s bring Jason back into the picture. He carried a lot of emotional pain when he moved into his grandparents’ house. But they said, “Now let’s not dwell on the pain. Let’s create a vision…a vision for the future. Your future is in your control. Your future is not predestined to be awful. So, what is your vision for the future?”
Jason said, “I see myself finishing high school and going to college. I see myself near the top of my class in college. I see myself getting a good job. I see myself having good friends and having your support all along the way.” And all of these came true because Jason had a vision. He saw Good News in the future, and nothing could pull him away from that vision.
In today’s Gospel we hear about Jesus fulfilling the vision put forth by the prophet Isaiah. Jesus brings Good News to those who are hurting. He comforts those who are weak and powerless; he heals the deaf; and he cures the blind and the lepers. Then he calls 70 disciples and sends them forth to proclaim the Good News. And before he carries the cross he calls future generations of disciples to go forth and proclaim his message. In other words, He calls us to go forth and proclaim his vision for the future, a future that is filled with joy.
We are called to proclaim that in the future there will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more sadness ……but only the fullness of joy and peace.