Happy Second Sunday of Advent!!! Today, we are going to do a little bit of a “deep dive” into the Scriptures for this weekend. So hold on to your hats:
Our first reading today from the Old Testament, from the second of three parts in the Book of Isaiah, we hear the first time in all of Scripture the reference to God as a shepherd. It is in reference to the “second exodus”. The first Exodus was Moses leading the Israelite people out of slavery in Egypt into the desert for 40 years. This second exodus is an exodus that happens when the Israelite people were permitted to leave Babylon in about the year 539 B.C. (who have been held captive there since 587 B.C.). They are released by the king of the Persians, King Cyrus, who is referred to in Isaiah as God’s “chosen one” (which is fascinating in and of itself, but we’ll get to that another time). They have been away from their home, their family, and their Temple for about 40 years and are now permitted to return. It is a time of rejoicing and comfort. This second exodus is marked with a particular passage: “Prepare a way for the Lord, make straight His paths”. You can almost see the Israelite people, streaming out of Babylon, crossing a desert-like area, rejoicing and singing. You have the Lord as the shepherd - the one who leads his flock through this desert back to Jerusalem.
All of this foreshadows John the Baptist in the desert and the coming of Jesus. But John the Baptist, when crying out in the wilderness to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths”, is not speaking of another exodus for the Israelite people. Rather, he is speaking of people’s souls. He is speaking of an exodus of the heart - where people have been a slave to sin. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads people from doubt and fear, from slavery to sinfulness and despair, to the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He leads us to our true home - in God the Father; He leads us to our true family - the family of faith called the Church.
Scripture really is beautiful. The foreshadowing, the imagery, the narratives - all of it just remarkable. The way in which God weaves our salvation history together. Advent is a time for us to prepare our souls for the coming of the Lord - to make straight the paths to Him. Let us hear the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness. May we allow ourselves to be led by the Good Shepherd to the graces He wishes to bestow on us this season.
May the Lord give you His peace,