"For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." (Rom 13:11-12) Unsplash

God's Word on Sunday: Humanity’s roadmap written in prophecy

  • November 24, 2019

First Sunday of Advent, Dec. 1 (Year A) Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:1-14; Matthew 24:37-44

Sometimes prophecies seem audacious and impossible to believe. This is especially the case when all the external evidence says otherwise. 

Isaiah is a book filled with Judah’s woes. It begins in the eighth century BC with the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, follows the people into exile in Babylon, and then returns with them to Jerusalem to offer hope and comfort. It tells a story of decadence and corruption, disaster and destruction, exile and shame, ending with joy and hope. 

And yet at the very beginning of Isaiah there is a startling prophecy: Out of Zion will come the hope and salvation of the world. The word of God would go forth from Zion, enlightening and instructing the world and heralding an era of peace. The people of God would share the gift they had been given with all humanity. 

The powerful and beautiful image of swords being beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks still has the power to inspire hope. 

The 25 centuries that have elapsed since this prophecy was given are not encouraging. They are a staggering record of violence and bloodshed, often at the hands of those entrusted with the message. It is tempting to write it off as a beautiful but completely unrealistic wish. 

Perhaps it will make a nice wall hanging, poster or fridge magnet. But it is more imperative now than ever that this not happen. The prophecy represents the will of God — God’s hope and dream. That must always be our motivation, inspiration and desire. 

It is a goal, not a present reality or even one in the near future. It is humanity’s roadmap, but only if we choose to follow it. The message must be credible by the example of those who preach it. 

This is why the prophecy ends with a fine invitation, addressed to the people then and to us now: Come, let us walk in the ways of the Lord.

We have had more than enough time to digest the divine teachings that have been given to us.

There has been a steady stream of prophets, teachers and inspired writings sent by God. Jesus was the incarnation of the word of God, teaching by word and example. And yet human spiritual and moral progress have been painfully slow. 

We have not changed the way we think and act, regardless of the rhetoric that we use on a daily basis. As Paul observes in Romans, the night is certainly far gone, and it is definitely time to wake from our sleep and begin living in Christ. 

Humanity has reached a point where we must either change or perish. Religion is not primarily the beliefs we carry in our head, but the way we act in all areas of human life. The words in this passage were those that pierced the heart of St. Augustine and brought him to Christ. We can pray that they do the same for all of us.

Moments before disaster strikes, everything can seem so normal. People appear to be happy, going about their usual affairs. There is a haunting collection of photos on the Internet that shows individuals moments before a crash or an assassin’s bullet. If only the victims had known what we know now. 

Seeing the ruins of a great disaster can be sobering and melancholy. Among the crushed or burned possessions of people are shattered hopes and dreams. When they awoke that day, they had no inkling of what was to come. 

Our final day on Earth will begin just like any other. We cannot take time for granted — each day is a gift and there is no guarantee of tomorrow for anyone. 

Some have said that the one with the most toys at the end wins. That is in dire need of modification: At the end, those who have loved and been a source of joy, comfort and encouragement to others are the winners. We have many potentially damaging or lethal threats facing us: environmental, social, political and, yes, religious. 

Let us not be as the neighbours of Noah probably were — disbelieving and mocking right up to the day the flood began. As the Gospel passage urges us, let us be ready each day and remain spiritually awake.