Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memory of Saint Ambrose (+397), bishop of Milan. Pastor of his people, defender of the poor and weak against every form of exploitation, he was a strong defender of the Church in the face of the emperor's arrogance.


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Isaiah 40,1-11

'Console my people, console them,' says your God. 'Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and cry to her that her period of service is ended, that her guilt has been atoned for, that, from the hand of Yahweh, she has received double punishment for all her sins.' A voice cries, 'Prepare in the desert a way for Yahweh. Make a straight highway for our God across the wastelands. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be levelled, every cliff become a plateau, every escarpment a plain; then the glory of Yahweh will be revealed and all humanity will see it together, for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.' A voice said, 'Cry aloud!' and I said, 'What shall I cry?' -'All humanity is grass and all its beauty like the wild flower's. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of Yahweh blows on them. (The grass is surely the people.) The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God remains for ever.' Go up on a high mountain, messenger of Zion. Shout as loud as you can, messenger of Jerusalem! Shout fearlessly, say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God.' Here is Lord Yahweh coming with power, his arm maintains his authority, his reward is with him and his prize precedes him. He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This passage opens the part of the book called "Deutero-Isaiah" like an introduction. The prophet does not let himself be overwhelmed by resignation or discouragement because of the situation of exile in which his people find themselves. Inspired by the Spirit of God, he speaks these words of consolation for the entire people. At the same time as he invites all to reflect on their weakness and the precariousness of life, he urges them to turn their eyes to the Lord who is coming in their succour. We urgently must open a road in the desert to allow the Lord to come. The desert for us is that of our hearts, that of the links among people that are turned in to desert for the lack of love and therefore of life. Our cities so often look like deserts without life where people, especially the poorest, are at the mercy of the adverse forces of evil, with no one who defends and consoles them. The Psalmist cries: "There is no one who consoles them!" and the prophet seems to respond to it: "Comfort, O comfort my people" and asks: "Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings." We could compare this dialogue to the prayer of the community of believers: on one side the invocation raises to God and from heaven the consoling Word of God comes down. And when it reaches the hearts of believers, it makes them flourish again. God himself has decided to come down among his people to console them, comfort them and free them from the slavery of sin and the oppression of evil. This is why the way that God himself will travel to reach us must be prepared: every valley must be filled, every hill lowered, every piece of land smoothed out. The Lord is coming like a strong and tender shepherd who knows his sheep; he calls them by name, one by one, and gathers them together so that none of them stays behind or aside. The shepherd brings them out of the desert and leads them to a grassy field. In this time of Advent, Christian communities and individual believers, we are all called to welcome the Word that is proclaimed to us: our hearts will blossom with good feelings and the desert of our cities will see love and peace broaden.