Gaudete Sunday’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah [35:1-10] highlights the paradox of Advent. The prophet captured the paradox of barrenness and rejoicing as no other poet has. Scanning the southern Negev desert's gnarled surface he saw a vision of God's new creation. Listen to some of Isaiah’s lyrical desires and hopes:
"The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing…They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God... Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water...And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away".
In this magnificent piece of biblical poetry, the prophet Isaiah announces the end of the Babylonian captivity. Delivered and saved by God, all peoples shall return to their own land by way of the desert, in a new exodus. The road, the desert, water, and joy are more than mere coincidence. Isaiah prophecies that there shall be one, pure road, and it will be called the way of holiness upon which the redeemed shall walk. In the midst of the desert streams will break forth. Imagine the incredible scene... a highway of abundance and joy in such desolate and hopeless places!
The ways of the desert were deep within the heart of Israel and of Jesus, and it must be the same for all of us who form the new Israel of God– the Church. The way of Israel in the desert is also the way for all of us! We meet God in the midst of our deserts of sinfulness, selfishness, despair, isolation, and cynicism. And in the midst of the desert we hear what God will do if we open our hearts to him and allow God to make our own deserts bloom.
How do we survive in the midst of our own deserts? How have we resisted transforming our own barren areas into places of abundant life? How have we hidden behind the dividing walls that separate us from one another? How often have we wandered from the way of peace into our own selfishness, unkindness and despair? How many times have we allowed ourselves to be bombarded with images and voices of darkness, doom and hopelessness, failing to see the goodness, beauty, truth and hope that are at the core of the Christian message and the Catholic life?
These are the serious questions we must ask ourselves as we long and hope for the birth of the Messiah this year.
Advent is about welcoming the Light and allowing its brightness and the flavour of the Gospel to shatter our darkness, despair and doubt. Through the Salt and Light Television network, the Church in Canada has received a marvelous gift that now extends across the country through Canada’s first national Catholic cable network, now available from coast to coast. Salt and Light Television communicates the Good News of Christ through the positive work that the Church does in His name and through the media.
As we continue longing and waiting for Christ, let us not lose hope along the way. May the example of John the Baptist give us the strength and courage necessary to transform our deserts into gardens, and our emptiness into rich Catholic meaning and experience. During this third week of Advent rejoicing, allow God to make your own desert spaces bloom as you experience the joy of Salt and Light Television.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Television Network