Be strengthened in the Lord
Father Brian Christensen
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2023
I promise not to remind you that there’s only two weeks to Christmas. I won’t say that. I won’t let you get worried or anxious because the message today is, “Comfort. Comfort my people.”This is the opening line of our Liturgy of the Word today. This is the opening line of Isaiah’s so-called “Book of Comfort.”
“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.”
Now comfort certainly sounds very wonderful. It sounds beautiful. It appears very desirable. Who doesn’t want a little comfort? But what is it? I mean, what is comfort? What is the comfort which God wishes to give us?
It comes from Latin. So much of our vocabulary comes from Latin. Comfortis. Comfortis. Com is with. It’s the prefix or the preposition com. Com, with. And fortis means strength. Fortis. We know the word fort. A stronghold, something that has strength. To have comfort is to have, have strength. To have comfort is to receive strength. To be within strength. To be encouraged. To be fortified. To be fortified.
In the first 39 chapters of the prophet Isaiah, we hear about the weakness of God’s people. We hear about their shame and their suffering as a result of their sin, of their infidelity, of their disobedience. And now at this moment, chapter 40, God proclaims his desire to comfort his people. To give them strength. To encourage them. To fortify them.
How? How does God wish to give comfort to his people? Through his mercy. Through his mercy. Listen again to how God speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah. He says to, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.” Her guilt is taken away. In the face of their disobedience, shame, disloyalty, her infidelity and sin, God comes to his people with tender mercy, with comfort for his people. Our God comes to lead us from the vulnerability, the discomfort, and the weaknesses of sin into the strongholds, the security, and the comfort of his loving presence.
And how does our God accomplish this? Listen again to Isaiah: “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord. … Fear not to cry out and say here is our God.” Here is our god. John the Baptist comes just as Isaiah had foreseen crying out in the desert, “Here is your God!”
To receive God’s comfort, to be strengthened in the Lord, to be encouraged the Baptist calls us to repentance. He calls for us to turn away from sin, away from infidelity, away from shame, and turn instead towards the mercy of God. Turn towards the God who is our refuge, our stronghold, and our comfort.
The message of Isaiah and of John the Baptist reveal God’s never-failing mercy and his constant initiative of love. God is seeking us out in this Advent season. He is seeking you out. He wants us to experience true comfort through repentance, through the reception of his mercy. Listen again to the sacred author. Listen to the way that God speaks to you today in this Advent season. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.”