2020 - 2nd Sunday of Advent - God is Here Bringing Comfort and Peace
God is Here Bringing Comfort and Peace
Deacon Geoffrey Mooney, CSC
ACE 16, Pensacola
“Comfort, give comfort to my people.”
The opening line in Sunday’s first reading from the Book of Isaiah could not have arrived a moment too soon for the people of Judah. Exiled in Babylon, the Jewish people contended with painful memories of kings defeated, a homeland laid waste, and God’s temple destroyed. Would they ever return to Jerusalem? Would they ever be able to worship freely again? Would life ever go back to normal? Or would they be stuck in this captivity forever? But just as it seemed that all hope was gone, a voice cries out. Make ready the way. The Lord is coming. He comes with power. He comes in glory. He comes for you. So shout the good news—your captivity, your imprisonment, it’s over. It’s finally over.
This year has thrust us into quite the share of exilic moments. In the spring, a global pandemic forced us to hunker down in our homes, shutting down our cities and cutting us off from school and work, neighbors and family. We’ve been pivoting between ramping up and scaling down our routines ever since. Soon afterward, we stumbled headlong into a reckoning with racial injustice, revealing the exile that has long gripped communities of color and indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, we pounded a wedge through the heart of our nation, allowing politics to push us apart into rival camps each bent on overthrowing the other. And all along the way, perhaps we’ve felt exiled from our own sense of purpose and our own sense of peace. I’ll admit I have.
From wherever our Babylon is today, our questions might echo those of long ago. Will we return home to each other? Will we return to normalcy? Or will we be stuck in this awful reality forever? Yet amidst even this gloomy modern exile, a voice cries out. The Lord is coming. He will gather what was scattered into one flock. He will feed them and carry them securely. He will feed and secure you. So fear not. Take comfort. Comfort, give comfort to my people. That verse rings out for us, and this Advent is the perfect reminder of an indomitable reign of peace springing forth from the Lord, springing forth from Emmanuel, our God who is with us.
This Advent is my first as an ordained minister in the Church, and since leaving Notre Dame and becoming a deacon in September, I have been welcomed into a new community of faith at Christ the King parish and Catholic School in South Bend, Indiana. These are challenging days to learn the ins and outs of pastoral ministry when the circumstances of daily life change so frequently and a cloud of worry hangs over even the best-laid plans. I greet parishioners and students from a distance, always hoping that they can somehow see me smiling behind my mask. I gather with coworkers and committees over Zoom. And still there are many people I’ve yet to meet, older parishioners confined to their homes as well as younger parishioners unable to bring their families safely back to church.
Despite these small separations, there is cause for celebration! The prevailing message of Advent is that our God is coming, and not only in the future—he has come and continues to come among us right now. Even while times are tough, God comes and is here. Advent reminds me that God comes in every masked encounter with parishioners in the vestibule. He comes in the socially distanced classroom visits I make in the school. He comes in the weekly Zoom conference with the pastoral team. He comes in the “safe sign of peace” I exchange at Mass with Fr. Steve and Fr. Gil, my brothers in community. He comes as the three of us pray in the office, eat dinner, exchange stories, and even take turns spraying down pews to disinfect the church. He comes in the acts we do for one another as we shop, cook, and clean. In all of these moments, the prophetic voice is calling out. God is here bringing comfort and peace. There is no more exile. Our task inside and outside of Advent is to usher his arrival.
All of these little comings point us toward and flow outward from the Mass. The table of his Word and Sacrament is an Advent table, a table of God’s coming. The Eucharist puts an end to every spiritual exile, giving us strength to face the exiles plaguing our world. The Eucharist lifts us out of Babylon, orienting us toward the new Jerusalem. The Eucharist enfolds us into the eternal reign of peace even as we continue our earthly pilgrimage. Here we have our most privileged encounter with God. Here his grace is total. And here we are transformed into new voices crying out, announcing comfort for God’s people, giving comfort to a world in need.