Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
Look, your God is coming…
He is coming to save you.
Isaiah 35: 3-4
We live in a time plagued by fear – fear of violence, fear of death, fear of sickness, fear of insecurity.
In his 1961 essay “The Root of War Is Fear,” Thomas Merton noted:
At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear men have of one another, as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God.
But today’s readings offer reason for hope, not for fear.
The Kingdom of God will break through, will rupture the darkness and fear. It will offer hope in the midst of darkness.
“God is coming to save us.”
But how do we know this? How do we say this to people who are suffering – from poverty or from severe illness, from the loss of a loved one or from the loss of a job?
We cannot merely say that God is coming and all will be well.
But Jesus gives us a hint of the response.
When John’s disciples ask him if he is the Messiah, the one who is to come, he doesn’t say “Yes” or give them a theological proof of his status as the Messiah.
He tells them to look around.
Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind see again, the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.
The Reign of God ruptures the darkness with signs of hope.
When we help the blind see and the lame walk, when the poor hear the good news of God’s preferential love for them, then God’s reign breaks through.
That is what Jesus did and what we are called to do.
Break through the darkness with signs of life and hope.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at those who practice the works of mercy and call for the justice of the Reign of God.