Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated…
I do not necessarily know what is afflicting you; and you do not know what is afflicting me. But what is clear is the order that God has given his priests. And what is also quite evident is that our God knows exactly, perhaps even more keenly than we might know ourselves, what is that is causing us all to hurt and, why priests must speak tenderly and softly to God’s people. Yet, even as we hurt and are ailing in many ways (e.g., physically, emotionally, psychologically, financially, and spiritually), we are to heed a mysterious cry: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!
As we try to make sense of this command, we are told that it is so that the Lord’s glory may be manifested and, then, seen by all of us together. Hence, with a humble inner attitude, we shall delve into the symbolism of this cry emitted by Isaiah first, then by John the Baptist as Jesus’ precursor; and repeated now by the Church to address our hurts and set us on the path to life.
Clearly, God doesn’t need a highway to come to us, nor do we need to travel on a newly-paved road ourselves, since God is closer to us than we are to the core of our very being. Yet, we are intrigued by this cry.
We are ready to work for the construction of this heavenly highway because we so desperately need access to the healing, light, comfort, reassurance, guidance, inspiration, encouragement and endurance that He alone can give us. What ails us is such that I do not need to mention a single infirmity as the reason why we are all quite eager to have that highway fully operative. Obviously, the list of what we need from the Lord is by no means limited to what I enumerated a moment ago. And we know firmly that the Lord is most generous beyond our wildest expectation.
However, and most surprisingly, what priests should discover in the 1st reading from Isaiah (40:1-5, 9-11), as we speak tenderly and soothingly, is that very special favor which the Lord intends to give us in addition to what we need to recover fully from our ailments and to feel truly alive. But, to secure our full appreciation of that extra gift that the Lord planned from the beginning of time to grant us, I should point out that all this must take place in a desert into which we deliberately enter for healing and fullness of life.
Looking back to previous deserts into which the Lord led our ancestors, we ought to keep in mind that, even this time, the desert that we set up has to be a place that exteriorly makes us accept as a given our dependence on God for everything. It must be a place where lures and distractions are forcefully reduced to a minimum; and our existential choices compel us to make tough decisions of life and death.
Interiorly, the desert into which the heavenly highway is to be prepared requires true openness of mind and complete docility of heart.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Yes! The Lord comes to bring us glory!!! Actually, this is a done deal, because the mouth of the Lord has spoken. If we are even vaguely familiar with God’s Word, we ought to know already that, as soon as it is spoken, whatever the Lord planned is done. Period.
In the first “desert” mentioned by Isaiah, the Lord had decreed that, in the fullness of time, He would have shed His glory to assume the humble human flesh that makes us all so frail. In the “desert” prepared by John the Baptist as precursor, the Lord in human flesh, through His passion and death opened for us the gates of heaven and was fully glorified by the Father for His obedience even to death on a cross.
Now, in our “desert,” while daily living out the Gospel, we are to complete this “circle of glory” by working with the Holy Spirit so that the whole Body of Christ is fully glorified in order to share in the glory of Jesus its Head. So far, from our point of view, it is the glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the glory of our Blessed Mother and of all the saints and angels. It is referred to as the second coming of Christ. Just as the first coming in the flesh was heralded by John the Baptist and by a highway in the heart of all people of good will, so now, we are to build this highway for the second coming of Christ, i.e. for the fullness of glory to be shared by everyone of God’s children!
Interestingly enough: since we are still living within the confinements of time and space, we do not yet see the glory of the Holy Trinity, of our Blessed Mother, of the saints and angels. While we are still on this side of eternity, aided by the Holy Spirit, we are all expected to be hard at work building a highway that will bring about a guaranteed share of eternal glory. It is like the digging of a tunnel between two nations separated by a tall mountain ridge: Jesus, our Blessed Mother, the saints have already finished their half of the tunnel, we are working from this side and, as we die, we are guaranteed that we would see God’s light, we would see the fullness of glory of the total Christ, ours included.
The mouth of the Lord assures us that it is a done deal!
And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)
And, when will the work be completed? It is not for us to know. However, we have a few indications that it is a long way from being completed. What counts is our generous and undaunted contribution until we will be called to the other side. There, our vision will suddenly clear and we will see together the glory of the second coming of Christ.